NEWPORT — Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have given Carteret County residents until March to move out of federally provided lodging and find alternative accommodations.
This is according to FEMA officials and the remaining residents of emergency lodging along Averys Way in Newport.
“FEMA’s direct temporary housing program in North Carolina is scheduled to conclude on March 13, 2020,” FEMA External Affairs Officer Ron Roth confirmed.
According to Mr. Roth, FEMA’s housing program in Carteret and other counties where a federal disaster was declared following Hurricane Florence in September 2018 was always intended to be temporary.
“This 18-month program was intended to provide immediate temporary housing relief for those impacted by Hurricane Florence due to reduced rental resource availability following the hurricane,” he said.
Federal officials included Carteret County in the Temporary Housing Relief Program a little more than a month after Hurricane Florence.
Originally, there were no plans for trailers in FEMA’s recovery collaboration with state and county officials. That changed when crews realized there were not enough affordable housing options to accommodate the mass of people displaced by the storm.
In addition to single-family home damage, a number of apartment complexes forced out tenants to repair structures, compounding the housing crisis. Despite a housing fair and a county commission meeting to address accommodations, the issue persisted.
Displaced residents from Crystal Coast Apartments disrupted a regular session of the county board Oct. 15, 2018, to demand housing assistance, leading officials to move forward with the Temporary Housing Relief Program.
According to Mr. Roth, the majority of those who participated in the temporary housing program have already moved out of the provided housing.
“In the 15 months following Hurricane Florence, 656 displaced families have been housed through FEMA’s Direct Housing program,” Mr. Roth wrote. “As of Dec 23, 412 households have successfully moved on to more permanent housing by completing repairs or finding alternative arrangements.”
In Carteret County, FEMA provided around a dozen trailers for as many households, all along Averys Way in Newport. As of Friday, six trailers remain at the site.
“We’re still looking for somewhere to live,” said one of the last remaining occupants, who added that finding housing in the county is as hard today as it was immediately after Florence.
“Whenever you find something that’s available, they’re just gone (soon after). It’s the same situation for everyone else that’s still here,” the occupant said.
Consensus among those who still remain in FEMA-provided lodgings is appreciation, though they are nervous about the approaching deadline.
Mr. Roth said FEMA has worked with tenants to help them find lodging.
“FEMA and State specialists work closely with displaced survivors on their housing needs and keep them updated on program details and deadlines with face-to-face meetings, phone calls and letters,” Mr. Roth wrote. “Housing program eligibility — and continued occupancy — is determined on a regular schedule for homeowners and renters. To remain eligible, occupants must show they are making continuing progress on their permanent housing plan.”
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 201; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.