The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is
undertaking an ambitious effort to provide transitional
housing to hundreds of thousands of displaced Hurricane
Katrina victims. It's relying heavily on manufactured
homes and mobile trailers, but has also rented three
vessels from Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines for six
months to house primarily elderly and health-risk
victims. Two Carnival ships, docked in Galveston, Tx.,
can hold a combined 5,200 refugees. The other
1,800-person capacity ship is stationed in Mobile Bay,
The government has ordered about 100,000 two-bedroom
mobile homes and recreational vehicles from manufacturers
nationwide to help fill housing needs for 300,000 people,
says James McIntyre, a FEMA spokesman in Baton Rouge, La.
They are hoping to purchase 200,000 more, opening 30,000
homes every two weeks until they reach 300,000. The
government has taken delivery of about 12,000 units so
far, receiving about 500 residences a day, McIntyre says.
Roughly 44.7% of the $51.8-billion in federal Hurricane
relief aid is being earmarked for temporary housing.
Clayton Homes Inc., a Maryville, Tenn.-based unit of
Berkshire Hathaway Inc., received an order for 1,800
units to be delivered to Texarkana, Tex., one of four
FEMA emergency housing staging areas. The other centers
include Selma, Ala., Purvis, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La.
Two hundred single-section homes, ranging from 900-sq-ft.
to 1,100-sq-ft. in size, have already been delivered,
says Chris Nicely, a Clayton spokesman. Although he
declined to comment on the contract amount, Clayton's
two-and-three bedroom homes retail for around $25,000 to
The firm is attempting to deliver 100 homes a day over
the next two to three weeks. And it's in discussions to
provide another 600 pre-entitlement homes through the
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. On Sept. 9,
FEMA announced a newly formed Housing Area Command with
the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),
the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Red Cross to
coordinate housing operations across the Hurricane
Katrina-impacted areas. Hurricane victims could be housed
in mobile home and trailers communities of 5,000 to
25,000 people for three to five years as cities and towns
are rebuilt, said Brad Gair, FEMA's Housing Area
Commander, during a Sept. 12 press briefing.
Meanwhile, the furious pace of deployment has prompted
firms like Star Fleet Inc., a Middlebury, Ind.-based
transporter of recreational vehicles, to hire up to 100
more drivers in order to deliver 50 units a week to
Selma, Ala. U.S.R.V. Transport, Wakarusa, Ind., is
seeking another 500 drivers to ship up to 50 units a day
to Gulf-stricken areas.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest
Service has temporarily rescinded campground fees, which
range from $4 to $25-a-day, as well as 14-day stay limits
at its Southern Region lands, which total 106 campgrounds
in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It's
also making 30,000 housing units from its Rural
Development program available to Hurricane victims.
FEMA is clearing-out dealer inventories nationwide at a
record pace with Al's Motor Home & Trailer Sales,
Rockford , Ill., reporting 200 trailer sales to FEMA,
Burnside RV Gaylord, Mich., is delivering 350 trailers,
and Meyer's RV Superstore, Hamburg, N.Y., is sending a
combined 300 travel trailers and motorhomes from its four
upstate N.Y. locations.
"FEMA is in the process of securing 40,000 to 70,000
travel trailers from 30-ft. to 35-ft-long with A/C and
furniture in a cost range of $20,000 or less from dealers
across the country," says Clark McEwen, executive
director of the Austin-based Texas Recreational Vehicle
Association. "Most of the dealers in Texas and across the
country are just about cleaned-out of that particular
trailer. But there are number of manufacturers now
ramping up production."
Dutchmen Manufacturing, in Goshen, Ind., for instance,
plans to accelerate the opening of a new production
facility in Goshen. The company's wholesale inventory has
been depleted and dealers in the Southeast are reordering
barebones FEMA-type units to be distributed to the
homeless, says Richard Florea, Dutchmen president.
Dutchmen intends to ramp-up production by 20% by the end
of September while hiring between 200 and 250 new
employees by the first of the year.