BJ Kinds (center), construction manager with Delta Design Build Workshop, frames a house in Eastmoor on Sept. 2, 2020.Rory Doyle/ There is More Work to be Done

Transformational Rural Resources & Reconciliation

We are living through a momentous time. Trillions of dollars are flowing into communities to help address the impacts of the pandemic and position our nation to lead into the future. But, like water, federal funding often flows to the path of least resistance and historically this inertia has left behind rural areas, persistently poor counties, and communities of color. As Congress enters discussions on infrastructure, a focus on targeting these transformational resources to address long-existing patterns of rural poverty has never been more important.

There has been no lack of news coverage over the last year about Americans fleeing the big city for a quieter, more socially distanced small-town life. High-amenity rural communities across the country are seeing explosive growth that has led some to announce the beginning of a rural renaissance for American millennials. But this trend does not hold true for under-resourced rural places, which have often suffered under the weight of persistent poverty for decades.

Fortunately, Congress has recognized this need and infrastructure reconciliation conversations have included critical resources for rural affordable housing and community development. Many of these resources align with HAC’s 2021 Rural Housing Policy Priorities. Here are some highlights on these resources:

  • USDA Rural Housing Service Resources

    • A transformational investment in rural multifamily housing, including $4.36 billion for new construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of Section 515 rental housing and Section 514/516 farmworker housing, as well as $200 million for Section 521 Rental Assistance. With thousands of USDA multifamily units maturing and leaving the program each year and no funding for new construction in a decade, this investment could right the ship and preserve an estimated 38,720 units.
    • Additional support for rural affordable homeownership, including $70 million in budget authority for Section 502 direct homeownership loans (estimated to support loans totaling about $3.7 billion); $95 million for Section 504 repair grants; and $25 million for Section 523 self-help.
  • Rural Partnership Program (RPP)

    • The Rural Partnership Program (RPP) is a newly proposed program that is funded at nearly $4 billion and would provide flexible grants to support rural and tribal community development and capacity building. The proposed program has two parts: grants to support direct activities and projects, and grants to support the organizations responsible for providing technical assistance and capacity to administer the grants.
  • Other critical resources for rural housing

    • $25 million in additional funding for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) at HUD, which is a critical tool for rural affordable homeownership. HAC’s SHOP program has created nearly 10,000 homes in rural places across the country.
    • A $1 billion setaside of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border. These generally unincorporated communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are characterized by high poverty rates and substandard living conditions, often lacking potable drinking water, water and wastewater systems, paved streets, and access to standard mortgage financing. This investment in colonias will allow these communities to develop the basic infrastructure they desperately need.

The new Administration has made geographic equity for rural places a priority, and we are hopeful that Congress will recognize the unique needs of rural areas and maintain these resources as the negotiations move forward. Rural communities are worthy of investment—and now is the time to make that investment in the future of rural America. If you would like to learn more about HAC’s policy priorities, click here.

Hurricane Ida Information

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm in the early morning of August 29, 2021. More than 1 million customers are experiencing power outages. Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved northeast, but it has caused major flooding in New York and New Jersey, where the governors have declared emergencies. Central Park received a record breaking three inches of water in one hour. HAC offers the following guide as a source of information for individuals and families dealing with direct housing loss and damage from the storm. For more information, please see HAC’s report: Picking up the Pieces: Restoring Rural Housing and Communities After a Disaster and Disaster Response for Rural Communities Guide.

If your house is inaccessible or currently uninhabitable, emergency, transient housing will likely be made available to provide immediate shelter for those in need. Organizations and resources available to assist with emergency transient housing in previous similar disasters include the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Church World Service, Mennonite Disaster Service, and state- and city-run emergency shelters aimed at housing victims of Hurricane. If you are in need of emergency, transient housing, you can text SHELTER and your Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find where the shelter closest to you is located.

FEMA makes available temporary assistance funding available for residents of counties affected by hurricanes. Temporary assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. To see if you are eligible for funding, you can apply online at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or call FEMA’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA(3362). When applying, make sure to have a pen and paper as well as the following information: your social security number, current and pre-disaster address, a telephone number where you can be contacted, insurance information, total household income, a routing and account number from your bank if you are interested in having disaster assistance funds transferred directly into your bank account, and a description of your losses that were caused by the disaster.

Tips

Please keep in mind the following safety protocols for hurricanes and flooding:

  • Only call 911 if you have an immediate need for medical attention or evacuation assistance.
  • If you can’t get through to 911 on first try, keep calling.
  • DO NOT DRIVE through high water and DO NOT DRIVE AROUND BARRICADES! Just 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • DO NOT WALK through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down. 4
  • If your home floods, STAY THERE. You are safer at home than trying to navigate flooded streets on foot.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is NOT MOVING, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter MOVING water.
  • STAY AWAY from streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.
  • MOVE important items – especially important documents like insurance policies – to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
  • DISCONNECT electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.

This flooding event is a reminder that all residents in this area should carry flood insurance. Contact your insurance agent for more information about purchasing flood insurance or visit the National Flood Insurance Program at www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program or call 1-888-379-9531. Please keep in mind that new insurance policies take 30 days to go into effect.

If your home has experienced damage, remember to check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundations cracks, missing support beams, or other damage. It may be safest to ask a building inspector of contractor to check the structure before you enter. Do not force jammed doors open, as they may be providing needed support to the rest of the home. Sniff for gas to ensure there are no natural or propane gas leaks. If you do have a propane tank system, make sure to turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system before you use it again. Check floors and ceilings to ensure they are not sagging from water damage. This can be especially hazardous. Take photographs of any damage as you may need them for insurance claims or FEMA claims later on.

Resources

Apply for FEMA Assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA Disaster Assistance Helpline answers questions about the help offered by FEMA, how to apply for assistance, or the information in your account.

Toll-free helpline: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
For hearing impaired callers only:
1-800-462-7585 (TTY)
1-800-621-3362 (Video Relay Service)
Operators are multilingual and calls are answered seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET

American Red Cross Disaster Service: For referrals and updates on Red Cross shelter services in your area, locate a local Red Cross office through: https://www.redcross.org/find-help or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
The Red Cross helps disaster victims by providing safe shelter, hot meals, essential relief supplies, emotional support and health services like first aid. Trained Red Cross workers often meet one-on-one with families to develop individual plans and identify available resources to help aid recovery.

STATE HOUSING AGENCIES

Louisiana
Louisiana Housing Corporation
2415 Quail Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Phone: (225) 763-8700
Fax: (225) 763-8710
https://www.lhc.la.gov

Mississippi
Mississippi Home Corporation
735 Riverside Drive
Jackson, MS 39202-1166
Phone: (601) 718-4642
Fax: (601) 718-4643
https://www.mshomecorp.com

New Jersey
New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency
637 S Clinton Avenue
Trenton, NJ 08611-1811
Phone: (609) 278-7400
Fax: (609) 278-1754
https://www.njhousing.gov

New York
New York State Homes and Community Renewal
641 Lexington Avenue, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10022-4503
Phone: (212) 688-4000
Fax: (212) 872-0789
http://www.nyshcr.org

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT STATE FIELD OFFICES

Louisiana
Hale Boggs Federal Building
500 Poydras Street
9th Floor
New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone: (504) 671-3001
Director: Tammy Fowler

Mississippi
Dr. A. H. McCoy Federal Building
100 West Capitol Street
Room 910
Jackson, MS 39269-1096
Phone: (601) 965-4757
Director: Jerrie G. Magruder

New Jersey
Newark Field Office
One Newark Center
1085 Raymond Boulevard
13th Floor
Newark, NJ 07102-5260
Phone: (973) 622-7900
Director: Justin Sheid

New York
Jacob K. Javits Federal Building
26 Federal Plaza
Suite 3541
New York, NY 10278-0068
Phone: (212) 264-8000
Director: Vacant

USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT STATE OFFICES

Louisiana
Diana Smith, Acting State Director
3727 Government Street
Alexandria, LA 71302
Voice: (318) 473-7920
Fax: (844) 325-6949
www.rd.usda.gov/la

Mississippi
Douglas Simons, Acting State Director
Federal Building, Suite 831
100 West Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39269
Voice: (601) 965-4316
Fax: (601) 965-4088
www.rd.usda.gov/ms

New Jersey
Brandon R. Pfeilmeier, Acting State Director
521 Fellowship Road, Suite 130
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054
Voice: (856) 787-7700
Fax: (855) 305-7343
www.rd.usda.gov/nj

New York
Brian Murray, Acting State Director
The Galleries of Syracuse
441 South Salina Street, Suite 357
Syracuse, NY 13202-2541
Voice: (315) 477-6400
Fax: (315) 477-6438
www.rd.usda.gov/ny

STATE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCIES

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
Voice 601-933-MEMA
24 hour emergency line: 1-800-222-MEMA(6362)
https://www.msema.org/

Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
7667 Independence Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
Voice: (225) 925-7500
Fax: (225) 925-7501
http://gohsep.la.gov/

New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
http://www.ready.nj.gov/

New York Homeland Security and  Emergency Services
http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/

Middle Tennessee Flooding Disaster Guide

On August 21, 2021, record-breaking rain (17 inches in 24 hours) caused major flooding in Middle Tennessee and at least 22 fatalities in Humphreys County. Roads, telephone lines, cars, and home foundations were washed away. HAC offers the following guide as a source of information for individuals and families dealing with direct housing loss and damage from the storm. For more information, please see HAC’s report: Picking up the Pieces: Restoring Rural Housing and Communities After a Disaster and Disaster Response for Rural Communities Guide.

If your house is inaccessible or currently uninhabitable, emergency, transient housing will likely be made available to provide immediate shelter for those in need. Organizations and resources available to assist with emergency transient housing in previous similar disasters include the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Church World Service, Mennonite Disaster Service, and state- and city-run emergency shelters. If you are in need of emergency, transient housing, you can text SHELTER and your Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find where the shelter closest to you is located.

FEMA makes available temporary assistance funding available for residents of counties affected by natural disasters. Temporary assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. To see if you are eligible for funding, you can apply online at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or call FEMA’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA(3362). When applying, make sure to have a pen and paper as well as the following information: your social security number, current and pre-disaster address, a telephone number where you can be contacted, insurance information, total household income, a routing and account number from your bank if you are interested in having disaster assistance funds transferred directly into your bank account, and a description of your losses that were caused by the disaster.

Tips

Please keep in mind the following safety protocols for flooding:

  • Only call 911 if you have an immediate need for medical attention or evacuation assistance.
  • If you can’t get through to 911 on first try, keep calling.
  • DO NOT DRIVE through high water and DO NOT DRIVE AROUND BARRICADES! Just 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • DO NOT WALK through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down. 4
  • If your home floods, STAY THERE. You are safer at home than trying to navigate flooded streets on foot.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is NOT MOVING, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter MOVING water.
  • STAY AWAY from streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.
  • MOVE important items – especially important documents like insurance policies – to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
  • DISCONNECT electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.

This flooding event is a reminder that all residents in this area should carry flood insurance. Contact your insurance agent for more information about purchasing flood insurance or visit the National Flood Insurance Program at www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program or call 1-888-379-9531. Please keep in mind that new insurance policies take 30 days to go into effect.

If your home has experienced damage, remember to check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundations cracks, missing support beams, or other damage. It may be safest to ask a building inspector of contractor to check the structure before you enter. Do not force jammed doors open, as they may be providing needed support to the rest of the home. Sniff for gas to ensure there are no natural or propane gas leaks. If you do have a propane tank system, make sure to turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system before you use it again. Check floors and ceilings to ensure they are not sagging from water damage. This can be especially hazardous. Take photographs of any damage as you may need them for insurance claims or FEMA claims later on.

Resources

Apply for FEMA Assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA Disaster Assistance Helpline answers questions about the help offered by FEMA, how to apply for assistance, or the information in your account.

Toll-free helpline: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
For hearing impaired callers only:
1-800-462-7585 (TTY)
1-800-621-3362 (Video Relay Service)
Operators are multilingual and calls are answered seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET

American Red Cross Disaster Service: For referrals and updates on Red Cross shelter services in your area, locate a local Red Cross office through: https://www.redcross.org/find-help or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
The Red Cross helps disaster victims by providing safe shelter, hot meals, essential relief supplies, emotional support and health services like first aid. Trained Red Cross workers often meet one-on-one with families to develop individual plans and identify available resources to help aid recovery.

STATE HOUSING AGENCIES

Tennessee
Tennessee Housing Development Agency
502 Deaderick Street, Third Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 815-2200
Fax: (615) 564-2700
https://www.thda.org

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT STATE FIELD OFFICES

Tennessee
John J. Duncan Federal Building
710 Locust Street, SW 3rd Floor
Knoxville, TN 37902-2526
Phone: (865) 545-4370

Nashville Field Office
235 Cumberland Bend
Suite 200
Nashville, TN 37228-1803
Phone: (615) 515-8510
Director: Sernorma L. Mitchell

USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT STATE OFFICES

Tennessee
Jim Tracy, State Director
441 Donelson Pike, Suite 310
Nashville, TN  37214
Voice: (615) 783-1300
Fax: (855) 776-7057
www.rd.usda.gov/tn

STATE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCIES

Region 4 (Mississippi and Tennessee)
Federal Emergency Management Agency
3003 Chamblee Tucker Road
Atlanta, GA 30341
Main Number: 770-220-5200
Fax Number: 770-220-5230

 

The State of The Nation’s Housing – 2021

Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University
Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies - 2021 Cover

Even as the US economy continues to recover, the inequalities amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic remain front and center. Households that weathered the crisis without financial distress are snapping up the limited supply of homes for sale, pushing up prices and further excluding less affluent buyers from homeownership. At the same time, millions of households that lost income during the shutdowns are behind on their housing payments and on the brink of eviction or foreclosure. A disproportionately large share of these at-risk households are renters with low incomes and people of color. While policymakers have taken bold steps to prop up consumers and the economy, additional government support will be necessary to ensure that all households benefit from the expanding economy.

HAC is a proud sponsor of Harvard’s State of the Nation’s Housing report.

Census 2020 Logo

The First Figures from the 2020 Census Are Released

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that the population of the United States on April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281. The U.S. population increased by 22,703,743 or 7.4 percent from 2010. The U.S. population growth from 2000 to 2010 was 9.7 percent.

 

 

All but four states and territories gained population over the last decade with Utah, Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas experiencing more than 15 percent population growth. Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Illinois lost population between 2010 and 2020.

The initial Census release was highly anticipated for implications on Congressional apportionment. According to the Census Bureau, six states will gain seats in the U.S. house of representatives: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will all gain one Congressional representative. Texas will gain two seats. Seven states, including California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will each lose a seat in Congress.

The April 26, announcement was the first release 2020 Census data. The Housing Assistance Council will continue to update and analyze data from Census 2020 and its implications for rural America and rural people in the United States. Stay tuned.

HAC and NEA team up to celebrate rural stories – in photos

With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, HAC is launching “There is More Work to Be Done,” a virtual exhibition celebrating the work of acclaimed photographer George “Elfie” Ballis (1925-2010), a long-time friend of HAC and rural housing, along with photos and stories from contemporary photographers who worked with our local partners in California, Kentucky, and Mississippi to capture our collective progress while exposing the work that must continue. As HAC approaches 50 years, these photos are a perfect opportunity to both reflect and look forward.

There is More Work to be Done

Our thanks to the partner organizations and photographers who shared their communities and talents with us.

White Mountain Apache Housing Authority Serves its Veterans

The White Mountain Apache Housing Authority (WMAHA) helps the members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe to overcome their individual housing needs. Of these, almost 500 are U.S. military veterans. Working in the Fort Apache Indian Reservation located in eastern central Arizona, WMAHA serves the 16,000 enrolled members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and strives to ensure that every tribal member has safe housing they can afford. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is proud to be a partner of WMAHA and their amazing work. In 2018, we awarded a $30,000 grant through The Home Depot Foundation‘s Veteran Housing Grants Program to WMAHA to help support their veterans. In celebration of Veterans Day and Native American Heritage Month, we’d like to highlight just a few of the many ways the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority serves the veterans of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Before rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

Before rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018

After rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

After rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018

Before and after of a rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

 

As many veterans know, service doesn’t end when you’re discharged. It’s a value that is carried for a lifetime. For WMAHA, service is key to the mission. The Veteran Home Rehabilitation Program serves those who have served our country. Many of the low-income Apache veterans the Housing Authority assists are in desperate need of multiple, expensive repairs to make sure their homes are safe, accessible, and livable. But without the ability to make these repairs themselves, many veterans need help.

Over the last eight years, the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority has rehabilitated (or in one case built!) 19 homes for their veterans, each of which required multiple major repairs for health, safety, and accessibility. All of this was performed at no cost to the veteran or their family. Last year WMAHA was able to set a record with 5 rehabilitations.

Making sure their veterans have safe and healthy homes is a point of pride for WMAHA and for the entire White Mountain Apache community. After all, WMAHA doesn’t work alone: each rehabilitation is made possible by scores of volunteers. As the team from WMAHA explains, “the number of volunteers who come and help with demolition and construction cleanup during the projects” is a testament to the rehabilitation program’s “impact on the community.” From the Housing Authority to everyday members, including community partners, the White Mountain Apache Tribe takes care of its veterans. By taking care of those who took care of us, WMAHA is serving both its community and the broader community of veterans nationwide.

The COVID pandemic has hit many Native communities particularly hard, and tragically, the White Mountain Apache are no exception. During the pandemic, unemployment, which usually runs 80% according to WMAHA, has far surpassed that amount, and food insecurity is “at a critical level.” Many of the low-income veterans WMAHA assists don’t have a way to pick up food from the local food bank, so the Housing Authority is starting to deliver the food boxes itself. Not content to just help house their veterans, WMAHA is committed to improving their quality of life.

Caring for veterans extends outside the home, too. For WMAHA, ensuring their veterans have access to the Veterans Affairs benefits they deserve is a critical mission. With 1.67 million acres, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation is large and rural. This creates challenges for many of the Tribe’s low-income veterans. Many of the nearest VA hospitals are hundreds of miles away, which makes even getting to routine appointments incredibly difficult. This distance makes it so challenging to receive disability ratings, see specialists, and make necessary appointments that, according to Barb Connerley, a consultant who works with WMAHA, “many of the veterans…do not know what VA benefits are available to them.”

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

The White Mountain Apache Housing Authority has created a solution to help connect their veterans to the VA medical care they earned through their service. Since 2017, the White Mountain Apache Tribe Department of Transportation has operated Fort Apache Connection Transit (FACT), a 2-route bus system serving 12 stops across the Reservation. While this system doesn’t provide access to the nearest VA hospitals, the Housing Authority recently began repurposing one of their buses to transport veterans to their VA appointments. Multiple times a month, WMAHA will be providing veterans with a bus ride to their appointments and back home. They even take the time to help the veterans complete their paperwork to file for VA benefits.

For the trip, WMAHA provides their veterans with water, snacks, masks, and COVID safety information. They hope that this program can also serve as a teaching event, helping their veterans learn more about COVID safety as well as how to access their VA benefits. The program’s strength is its ingenuity—bringing together transit, healthcare, and informational services—in solving a critical problem for the Tribe’s veterans. Thanks to the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, veterans living on reservation now have access to the critical VA healthcare they’ve earned through their service.

Many veterans return from their service to find it difficult to access the resources of their communities, including housing. Tragically, Native communities are overrepresented among persistent poverty counties, making these resources even harder to access. The Housing Assistance Council is committed to helping build community resources for housing where they’re needed most. Partners like WMAHA help us give back to our veterans and uplift Native communities. As Barb Connerley puts it, the Tribe’s veterans “have a proud tradition of military service and sacrifice.” The work of the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority pays respect to that service and sacrifice through service, care, and ingenuity of its own.

Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies Releases State of the Nation’s Housing 2020

For most of 2020, the country has been beset by the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest sparked by longstanding racial injustice, and the devastating impacts of climate change. Although low interest rates and continued growth in some sectors have bolstered homebuying and the broader economy, conditions have worsened for many households. Indeed, the nation’s failure to live up to its long-stated goal of a decent home in a suitable environment for all has never been clearer— particularly in the lack of affordable rental housing and unequal access to homeownership. Today’s crisis conditions call for a comprehensive re-envisioning of national housing policy.

Read the Report

Attend the release event on Nov. 19 at 4:00 pm EST

2020 West Coast Wildfires Disaster Guide

For the past three weeks, orange skies have covered much of the West Coast due to wildfire smoke. Dry conditions, lightning, and human activity have sparked these wildfires in California, Washington, and Oregon and thousands have evacuated. Over 28,000 firefighters, including prison inmates, are actively working to contain the 42 major wildfires across the region.1

In August, a storm of lightning strikes north of Sacramento sparked a cluster of wildfires that has damaged more than 471,000 acres (largest wildfire on record) and is only 24 percent contained.2 So far, wildfires have burned over 3.1 millions acres in California in 2020.3 Half a million acres have burned in Oregon and Washington Governor Jay Inslee relayed from the fire chief that he hadn’t seen a fire explode like this one “in his 33 years of service. Climate change is making these fires more frequent, more expensive and far more dangerous.”4

Even after the fires and smoke subside, there will be long-term consequences, including effects of smoke inhalation and contaminated ground water and reservoirs. These deleterious health effects compound the problems already caused by the pandemic.5

To see current fire information and updates, check the California Fire incident information
online at https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents.

Resources
The following guide provides information for individuals and families affected by the fires about current and potential efforts. For more information, please see HAC’s report: Picking up the Pieces: Restoring Rural Housing and Communities After a Disaster, available free online at https://Ruralhome.org/disaster-guide/.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
If federal assistance becomes available for residents affected by the fires, to apply you must complete a multi-purpose application online at https://www.disasterassistance.gov or over the phone on FEMA’s toll-free helpline.

Toll-free helpline:
1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
For hearing impaired callers only:
1-800-462-7585 (TTY)
1-800-621-3362 (Video Relay Service)

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD offers a Disaster Recovery Toolkit and makes other related resources available:
https://www.hud.gov/info/disasterresources.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
To determine whether USDA has specific assistance available for fire survivors who had USDA Rural Development assistance before the fires, check for information online at https://www.rd.usda.gov/page/rural-development-disaster-assistance, or call the USDA Rural Development state office in California at 530-792-5830 for rental housing or 530-792-5816 for owner-occupied housing.

American Red Cross Disaster Service
For referrals and updates on Red Cross shelter services in your area, locate a local Red Cross office through: https://www.redcross.org/get-help.html or by calling the Public Inquiry Center at 1-800-214-0441.

State Resources
California
https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents
https://response.ca.gov/

Washington
https://www.dnr.wa.gov/Wildfires
https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/washington-wildfire-resources
https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/

Oregon
https://connectingpointonline.com/solutions/wildfire-resources/
https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/

State Housing Agencies
Each state has at least one agency that administers state and federal programs to promote decent
affordable housing for low-income individuals. Typically, these agencies and authorities administer
some aspects of state or federal programs.

California Housing Finance Agency
500 Capitol Mall, Suite 1400
Sacramento, CA 95814-4737
Phone: (916) 326-8000
877-9-CalHFA (877-922-5432)
https://www.calhfa.ca.gov/

Oregon Housing and Community Services
725 Summer Street NE, Suite B
Salem, OR 97301-1266
Phone: (503) 986-2000
https://www.ohcs.oregon.gov

Washington State Housing Finance Commission
1000 2nd Avenue, Suite 2700
Seattle, WA 98104-1002
Phone: (206) 464-7139
https://www.wshfc.org

Local Housing Authorities
Use the links below to search for your local housing authority.

California
https://www.hud.gov/states/california/renting/hawebsites
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/PHA_Contact_Report_CA.pdf

Oregon
https://www.housingauthoritiesoforegon.com/
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/PHA_Contact_Report_OR.pdf

Washington
https://www.awha.org/
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/PHA_Contact_Report_WA.pdf

Evacuating and Returning Home
The Red Cross website provides suggestions on actions to prepare for evacuation and returning home after a fire:6

IF A FIRE OCCURS Listen to your local media for updates on the fire and be ready to leave quickly. Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing your direction of escape. You should also:

  • Keep your pets in one room so you can find them quickly if you have to evacuate.
  • Arrange for a temporary place to stay outside the threatened area.
  • Keep your indoor air clean – close windows and doors to prevent the smoke outside from getting in your home.
  • Use the recycle mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to be inside, seek shelter somewhere else.
  • If smoke levels are high, don’t use anything that burns and adds to air pollution inside such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves

AFTER THE FIRE Don’t go home until fire officials say it is safe. Be cautious entering a burned area – hazards could still exist. Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and
wires. Other things to do include:

  • Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
  • Wet down debris to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
  • Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
  • Recheck for smoke or sparks throughout your home for several hours after the fire, including in your attic. Wildfire winds can blow burning embers anywhere so check for embers that could cause a fire.

If your home has experienced damage, remember to the check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundations cracks, missing support beams, or other damage. It may be safest to ask a building inspector of  contractor to check the structure before you enter. Do not force jammed doors open, as they may be providing needed support to the rest of the home. Sniff for gas to ensure there are no natural or propane gas leaks. If you do have a propane tank system, make sure to turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier  to check the system before you use it again. Check floors and ceilings to ensure they are not sagging from water damage, this can be especially hazardous. Take photographs of any damage as you may need them for insurance claims or FEMA claims later on.7


 

1“’We have never seen this’: 10% of Oregon forced to evacuate; death toll rises from wildfires across Western states”, September 11, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/09/11/wildfire-updates-oregon-evacuations-california-deaths/3467271001/

2“California Daily Wildfire Update,” September 11, 2020, https://www.fire.ca.gov/daily-wildfire-report/

3“Wildfire is largest in California history and continues to grow,” September 11, 2020, https://thehill.com/changing-america/resilience/natural-disasters/515997-wildfire-is-largest-in-california-history-and

4 “Deadly wildfires rage in California, Oregon and Washington,” September 11, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/us/live-news/west-coast-wildfires-09-10-2020/index.html

5 “A Climate Reckoning in Fire-Stricken California,” September 11, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/10/us/climate-change-california-wildfires.html

6“Red Cross Shelters 1,000s as California Fires Burn out of Control,” October 20, 2017, https://www.redcross.org/news/article/Red-Cross-Helps-as-Fires-Burn-Out-of-Control-in-California.

7Excerpted from the Red Cross’s Guide on “Checking Your Home: Structural Elements” available at https://www.redcross.org/find-help/disaster-recovery/home-structural-elements.

 

2020 West Coast Wildfires Disaster Guide

For the past three weeks, orange skies have covered much of the West Coast due to wildfire smoke. Dry conditions, lightning, and human activity have sparked these wildfires in California, Washington, and Oregon and thousands have evacuated. Over 28,000 firefighters, including prison inmates, are actively working to contain the 42 major wildfires across the region.1

In August, a storm of lightning strikes north of Sacramento sparked a cluster of wildfires that has damaged more than 471,000 acres (largest wildfire on record) and is only 24 percent contained.2 So far, wildfires have burned over 3.1 millions acres in California in 2020.3 Half a million acres have burned in Oregon and Washington Governor Jay Inslee relayed from the fire chief that he hadn’t seen a fire explode like this one “in his 33 years of service. Climate change is making these fires more frequent, more expensive and far more dangerous.”4

Even after the fires and smoke subside, there will be long-term consequences, including effects of smoke inhalation and contaminated ground water and reservoirs. These deleterious health effects compound the problems already caused by the pandemic.5

To see current fire information and updates, check the California Fire incident information
online at https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents.

Resources
The following guide provides information for individuals and families affected by the fires about current and potential efforts. For more information, please see HAC’s report: Picking up the Pieces: Restoring Rural Housing and Communities After a Disaster, available free online at https://ruralhome.org/sct-information/mn-hac-research/mn-rrr/546-disaster-guide.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
If federal assistance becomes available for residents affected by the fires, to apply you must complete a multi-purpose application online at https://www.disasterassistance.gov or over the phone on FEMA’s toll-free helpline.

Toll-free helpline:
1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
For hearing impaired callers only:
1-800-462-7585 (TTY)
1-800-621-3362 (Video Relay Service)

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD offers a Disaster Recovery Toolkit and makes other related resources available:
https://www.hud.gov/info/disasterresources.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
To determine whether USDA has specific assistance available for fire survivors who had USDA Rural Development assistance before the fires, check for information online at https://www.rd.usda.gov/page/rural-development-disaster-assistance, or call the USDA Rural Development state office in California at 530-792-5830 for rental housing or 530-792-5816 for owner-occupied housing.

American Red Cross Disaster Service
For referrals and updates on Red Cross shelter services in your area, locate a local Red Cross office through: https://www.redcross.org/get-help.html or by calling the Public Inquiry Center at 1-800-214-0441.

State Resources
California
https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents
https://response.ca.gov/

Washington
https://www.dnr.wa.gov/Wildfires
https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/washington-wildfire-resources
https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/

Oregon
https://connectingpointonline.com/solutions/wildfire-resources/
https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/

State Housing Agencies
Each state has at least one agency that administers state and federal programs to promote decent
affordable housing for low-income individuals. Typically, these agencies and authorities administer
some aspects of state or federal programs.

California Housing Finance Agency
500 Capitol Mall, Suite 1400
Sacramento, CA 95814-4737
Phone: (916) 326-8000
877-9-CalHFA (877-922-5432)
https://www.calhfa.ca.gov/

Oregon Housing and Community Services
725 Summer Street NE, Suite B
Salem, OR 97301-1266
Phone: (503) 986-2000
https://www.ohcs.oregon.gov

Washington State Housing Finance Commission
1000 2nd Avenue, Suite 2700
Seattle, WA 98104-1002
Phone: (206) 464-7139
https://www.wshfc.org

Local Housing Authorities
Use the links below to search for your local housing authority.

California
https://www.hud.gov/states/california/renting/hawebsites
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/PHA_Contact_Report_CA.pdf

Oregon
https://www.housingauthoritiesoforegon.com/
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/PHA_Contact_Report_OR.pdf

Washington
https://www.awha.org/
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/PHA_Contact_Report_WA.pdf

Evacuating and Returning Home
The Red Cross website provides suggestions on actions to prepare for evacuation and returning home after a fire:6

IF A FIRE OCCURS Listen to your local media for updates on the fire and be ready to leave quickly. Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing your direction of escape. You should also:

  • Keep your pets in one room so you can find them quickly if you have to evacuate.
  • Arrange for a temporary place to stay outside the threatened area.
  • Keep your indoor air clean – close windows and doors to prevent the smoke outside from getting in your home.
  • Use the recycle mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to be inside, seek shelter somewhere else.
  • If smoke levels are high, don’t use anything that burns and adds to air pollution inside such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves

AFTER THE FIRE Don’t go home until fire officials say it is safe. Be cautious entering a burned area – hazards could still exist. Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and
wires. Other things to do include:

  • Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
  • Wet down debris to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
  • Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
  • Recheck for smoke or sparks throughout your home for several hours after the fire, including in your attic. Wildfire winds can blow burning embers anywhere so check for embers that could cause a fire.

If your home has experienced damage, remember to the check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundations cracks, missing support beams, or other damage. It may be safest to ask a building inspector of  contractor to check the structure before you enter. Do not force jammed doors open, as they may be providing needed support to the rest of the home. Sniff for gas to ensure there are no natural or propane gas leaks. If you do have a propane tank system, make sure to turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier  to check the system before you use it again. Check floors and ceilings to ensure they are not sagging from water damage, this can be especially hazardous. Take photographs of any damage as you may need them for insurance claims or FEMA claims later on.7


 

1“’We have never seen this’: 10% of Oregon forced to evacuate; death toll rises from wildfires across Western states”, September 11, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/09/11/wildfire-updates-oregon-evacuations-california-deaths/3467271001/

2“California Daily Wildfire Update,” September 11, 2020, https://www.fire.ca.gov/daily-wildfire-report/

3“Wildfire is largest in California history and continues to grow,” September 11, 2020, https://thehill.com/changing-america/resilience/natural-disasters/515997-wildfire-is-largest-in-california-history-and

4 “Deadly wildfires rage in California, Oregon and Washington,” September 11, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/us/live-news/west-coast-wildfires-09-10-2020/index.html

5 “A Climate Reckoning in Fire-Stricken California,” September 11, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/10/us/climate-change-california-wildfires.html

6“Red Cross Shelters 1,000s as California Fires Burn out of Control,” October 20, 2017, https://www.redcross.org/news/article/Red-Cross-Helps-as-Fires-Burn-Out-of-Control-in-California.

7Excerpted from the Red Cross’s Guide on “Checking Your Home: Structural Elements” available at https://www.redcross.org/find-help/disaster-recovery/home-structural-elements.