This a summary of the Individuals and Households Program (IHP), which is the first in a series of short summaries of current disaster housing programs. This series is intended to briefly describe a number of existing models used to provide temporary and permanent housing to victims after a natural disaster.
As directed by the Stafford Act, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the authority to provide various forms of temporary housing assistance, typically for a period no longer than 18 months. When the President declares a disaster and authorizes Individual Assistance (IA), FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) can help homeowners and renters affected by the disaster with temporary housing needs and expenses.
IHP provides money and services to people in the disaster area when losses are not covered by insurance and property has been damaged or destroyed. IHP will not cover all of your losses and is not intended to restore your damaged property to its condition before the disaster. To be considered for IHP housing assistance, the affected home must be the individual’s primary residence and it must be located in the disaster area designated for Individual Assistance. When a disaster is declared and Individual Assistance is authorized, affected individuals are directed to register with FEMA for assistance. Registration can be accomplished at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), by telephone, or by internet.
A Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) is a readily accessible facility or mobile office where applicants may go for information about FEMA or other disaster assistance programs, or for questions related to applications. Some of the services offered a DRC are (1) Guidance regarding disaster recovery (2) Clarification of any written correspondence received (3) Housing Assistance and Rental Resource information (4) Answers to questions, resolution to problems and referrals to agencies that may provide further assistance (5) Status of applications being processed by FEMA.
Types of IHP Housing Assistance
Money to rent a different place to live or a temporary housing unit, such as a FEMA-provided travel trailer or mobile home, when rental properties are not available.
Money for homeowners to repair damage from the disaster that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to repair the home to a safe and sanitary living or functioning condition.
Money is available to homeowners to replace their home destroyed in the disaster that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to help the homeowner with the cost of replacing their destroyed home.
Permanent Housing Construction
Money is available for the construction of a new home. This type of help occurs only in insular areas or remote locations specified by FEMA, where no other type of housing assistance is possible.
To receive money or help for Housing Needs that are the result of a disaster, all of the following must be true:
You have filed for insurance benefits and the damage to your property is not covered by your insurance.
You may be eligible for help from IHP to repair damage to your property.
You or someone who lives with you is a citizen of the United States, a non‐citizen national, or a qualified alien.
Your home is in an area that has been declared a disaster area by the President.
The home in the disaster area is where you usually live the majority of the year.
You are not able to live in your home now, you cannot get to your home due to the disaster, or your home requires repairs because of damage from the disaster.
Limitations of IHP
In many situations, IHP is an excellent program that provides supplementary assistance as individuals recover from a disaster. However, for low wage earners, seniors, and persons with disabilities, IHP can fall short for a variety of reasons.
(1) Disaster Recovery Centers do not provide the one-on-one client support services that vulnerable populations may need to successfully recover.
(2) Inspectors sometimes incorrectly assess damages to homes, and families are sent insufficient funds. If funds are not sufficient to make the home safe, sanitary, and functional, and the homeowner lacks other resources, the home may not pass code and may deteriorate further.
(3) The condition of the home can dramatically deteriorate between the time that an inspector assesses the home and the time that the homeowner receives the IHP assistance. Again this presents the problem of bringing the home up to code.
(4) Homeowners that are denied assistance due to deferred maintenance are usually the individuals that need assistance the most.
(5) There are many instances in which predatory contractors take advantage of people who lack experience contracting the labor necessary to repair or rebuild their home.