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Zoning Factors for Placing a FEMA Temporary Housing Unit

Release Date:
February 22, 2021

If you are a hurricane survivor in an already designated parish whose household has been cleared to receive a FEMA temporary housing unit, you may have the option to place it on your property while you rebuild. However, each potential location must first be reviewed to determine if it can legally be used as a temporary living site. This determination process takes time to complete and can slow the housing process.

  • Two major factors FEMA must consider: Does your city or parish have zoning rules that restrict the type of housing unit that may be placed on your property? And what type of flood zone is your property in? Each parish and most incorporated areas have their own zoning regulations.  
  • FEMA must also abide by federal regulations when considering the placement of units in flood areas known as the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). There are different zones that encompass the SFHA, with different restrictions for each. See Understand the differences between FEMA flood zones – Flood Factor for more information.  
  • FEMA’s Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation section reviews each proposed placement of federally supported temporary housing units for compliance with federal law and regulation for resource impacts, including regulations governing floodplain management. Any temporary housing unit placement in a 100-year floodplain should be avoided when there are practicable alternatives outside the floodplain. FEMA is strictly prohibited from placing any unit in a high-risk area such as a Coastal High Hazard Area or a regulatory floodway.  
  • FEMA and its contractors have been working with the relevant planning and development authorities in the twelve parishes designated for the Direct Temporary Housing program (Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Grant, Jefferson Davis, Rapides, St. Landry, St. Martin, Vermilion and Vernon) to find out what permits are required and what rezoning, exceptions, zoning variances, or flood ordinances may be required for placing units.  
  • Due to the great need for housing and a lack of practicable alternatives, FEMA has approved placement of units in the 100-year floodplain for all communities within Cameron and Calcasieu parishes.  
  • If a storm comes in that requires an evacuation order, any parish or municipality that allows a variance must accept responsibility for the evacuation of residents. This means that the parish or municipality is required to move people out of the area where the FEMA housing unit is placed.  
  • Local authorities have drafted variances that allow temporary changes to various zoning laws. In some cases, these are good for as short as six months. If the property owner has a plan and demonstrates progress with repairs, the zoning authority may extend the variance up to the 18-month term of temporary housing that FEMA allows.  
  • FEMA’s Direct Housing is a temporary program in place for a limited length of time and only applies in the already designated parishes.

For the latest information on Hurricane Laura, visit fema.gov/disaster/4559. For the latest information on Hurricane Delta, visit fema.gov/disaster/4570. Follow the FEMA Region 6 Twitter account at twitter.com/FEMARegion6.

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Last updated February 22, 2021