Main Content

Myths vs. Facts: Disaster Housing Assistance Program for María Survivors

Release date: 
June 7, 2018
Release Number: 
FS 037

MYTH: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Disaster Housing Assistance Program is necessary to address the housing needs of Puerto Rico survivors.

FACT: DHAP is not necessary to house displaced disaster survivors and has been cited by the Office of Inspector General as inefficient and not cost effective. FEMA’s Direct Lease program is being implemented in Puerto Rico and provides the same housing option to disaster survivors as DHAP in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
MYTH: DHAP is the best option to house disaster survivors.

FACT: According to the Office of Inspector General, administrative costs account for about 40 percent of tax dollars spent on the program.

MYTH: FEMA isn’t using HUD resources to help provide housing for Hurricane Maria survivors.

FACT: FEMA collaborates directly with the Puerto Rico Department of Housing and HUD to find housing solutions for Hurricane Maria survivors. Disaster survivors in Transitional Sheltering Assistance who meet HUD income requirements are referred directly to HUD’s programs. Survivors in Puerto Rico or in the states can then go online or to the local housing authority where they can work with HUD on available Section 8 properties in those areas.
MYTH: FEMA does not have programs in place to adequately house eligible displaced Hurricane Maria survivors.

FACT: FEMA is providing a variety of housing programs to adequately meet the unique needs of disaster survivors, and those programs are more timely and effective than DHAP.

MYTH: DHAP is a better program to house Hurricane Maria survivors than programs being used by FEMA in Puerto Rico.

FACT: Based on lessons learned from previous disasters, FEMA developed the Direct Lease program as a more direct, cost-effective, and simpler way to provide housing to disaster survivors. It is the preferred method over DHAP.

MYTH: FEMA requires applicants to pay a portion of rental assistance funds, just like DHAP.

FACT: FEMA pays 100 percent of the fair market rent to eligible applicants.

MYTH: FEMA Rental Assistance is based on the amount of your income, just like DHAP.

FACT: FEMA pays rental assistance to eligible applicants based on the size of your household at the time of the disaster.

MYTH: DHAP provides a better housing option to survivors with limited income.
FACT: Under DHAP, survivors are required to pay a portion of the rental payments. Under FEMA’s Direct Lease program, FEMA covers 100 percent of the rent based on the fair market rate.

MYTH: FEMA housing programs aren’t as efficient as DHAP.

FACT: FEMA’s Direct Lease Assistance program streamlines the bureaucratic challenges of DHAP by:

  • Eliminating the burden on survivors to find their own rental units
  • Providing rent directly to property owners at no cost to survivors
  • Reducing the number of federal agencies involved
  • Decreasing overall administrative costs for the agency

MYTH: FEMA should provide Direct Lease assistance to Maria survivors who relocated to the continental U.S.

FACT: Financial rental assistance, FEMA’s primary temporary housing option, is available to eligible survivors in the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. Survivors with a continuing need for rental assistance should contact FEMA. Direct Lease is available for eligible survivors in, or who return to, Puerto Rico.

MYTH: DHAP would be a quicker option for providing housing to displaced Hurricane Maria survivors.

FACT: DHAP implementation is slow due to the need to enter into an Interagency Agreement with HUD and establish separate grant agreements with each local Public Housing Authority in order to execute the program.

MYTH: Implementation of DHAP would guarantee additional HUD housing for displaced Hurricane Maria survivors after the program ends.

FACT: Participation in DHAP does not guarantee a survivor additional housing from HUD after the program ends due to wait lists for traditional HUD programs.

MYTH: FEMA doesn’t offer enough temporary housing options.

FACT: To address the complex needs of Hurricane Maria survivors in Puerto Rico, FEMA is working closely with the Government of Puerto Rico, other federal agencies and voluntary organizations to provide a variety of housing resources and options that best fit each eligible survivor household’s situation. These include:

  • Individual Assistance grants to pay pre-disaster homeowners for essential home repairs.
  • Financial rental assistance provided to homeowners and renters to rent a temporary place to live while their homes are being repaired or until they find other permanent housing.
  • Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repair (VALOR) Program – FEMA pays for materials and volunteers perform repairs to homes.
  • Tu Hogar Renace – A Government of Puerto Rico program funded by FEMA to provide up to $20,000 in essential temporary repairs to make homes safe, habitable and functional so survivors can live in them while permanent repairs are made.
  • Direct Lease – FEMA leases rental properties in Puerto Rico for displaced survivors until their homes are repaired or they secure other permanent housing.
  • Multi-Family Lease and Repair – FEMA provides funding for repairs to damaged rental housing units in Puerto Rico to make them habitable and available for FEMA to lease for survivors.
  • Permanent Housing Construction and Repair – FEMA has authorized assistance for homeowners whose pre-disaster primary residence was destroyed or incurred major damage in Puerto Rico. Repairs provided under this program are limited to real property components eligible under FEMA Housing Assistance such as ventilating and air conditioning, walls, floors, ceilings, etc.

Additionally, FEMA has distributed more than $1.3 billion in grants to survivors to help them recover. Other federal agency help includes nearly $1.6 billion in low-interest disaster loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration, and more than 59,000 professionally installed temporary roofs through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ “Operation Blue Roof” program.

Last Updated: 
June 7, 2018 - 16:43