May 31, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
A year and a half after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina and there are still thousands living in FEMA trailers. Now The Calcasieu Police Jury is doing its part to help people in the transition from trailers to permanent housing.
Hurricane Rita created a huge housing crisis and during the emergency various requirements were waived to help those desperately in need of a place to live. Those still living in FEMA trailers can rest easy for now, as far as the parish's requirements, as Calcasieu assistant planning director Jennifer Wallace explains. "There's over 2300 FEMA temporary units that are still in Calcasieu Parish. So, there's obviously a big need for this temporary housing. So, the police jury decided to go ahead and extend the length of time we are going to allow these units until March of 2008."
But the parish and police jurors want to help people make the transition into permanent housing and assure that requirements waived are enforced down the road. Police Jury President Chris Landry says it won't be easily accomplished. "The time goes by and you get to the end of all these extensions and I think there are going to be a lot of people who are still in these units and we better have a plan where we are going to move them to."
Wallace says compliance will be required for those who buy the FEMA mobile homes in which they live. "In cases where people moved into the flood plain without meeting elevation requirements, they are actually in a dangerous situation if another storm comes. Before they purchase the unit they have to come into our office, the planning department, to verify that they meet all of our local ordinances and that includes permitting, zoning, flood plain and that they have a sewerage approval."
Travel trailers purchased will not be allowed for use as permanent housing. Wallace says an estimated 480 apartments are available for rent in the area and that they expect high rents to level off soon.
Actions taken at the committee meeting come up for final approval June 7. The jury meets at 5:30 p.m. at the Calcasieu Government Building.