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Homeowner Needs After Wildfires Fall Short of Expectations

california-wildfiresMore than 4,000 households ravaged by the wildfires in Sonoma county, California in October 2017, were eligible for government-provided temporary public housing. Of these only 184 are currently living in a direct housing option such as manufacturing housing units, recreational vehicles, or in directly leased units, according to statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security (FEMA).

The statistics also revealed that eight joint local assistance centers and disaster recovery centers were set up to provide face-to-face disaster assistance for the 16,653 survivors.

Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is also available with  SBA having approved 927 loan applications from homeowners and 110 applications from business owners.

Despite these steps, the demand for government provided housing is low in the county as many displaced residents find accommodations through their friends and family or through their insurance companies.

According to an article published by The Press Democrat,  Robert Presapane, Division Supervisor, Sonoma County for FEMA has said that more than two-thirds of the 3,200 applicants had found new accommodations on their own. “The fire victims seeking housing from FEMA represent less than 6 percent of those the agency found so far compared to a historical norm of around 10 percent from other disasters,” Presapane said.

FEMA had housed 82 applicants at the fairgrounds site in southeast Santa Rosa and had nearly 40 more RV spots available there. Another 53 applicants were being housed by FEMA in apartments.

The article said that federal and local officials acknowledged that the housing need could still evolve. “FEMA had not been able to reach 580 housing-eligible applicants through multiple phone calls, possibly reflecting some fire victims who registered for government aid assistance and then decided they didn’t require it,” Presapane said.

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