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Public comment window closes Monday for proposed FEMA temporary housing camp in Metairie

Published: Apr. 9, 2022 at 11:24 PM CDT
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METAIRIE, La. (WVUE) - A window for public comment regarding a proposed FEMA temporary housing camp in the middle of Metairie quietly opened Saturday morning (April 9) and closes Monday, according to a notice posted on the Jefferson Parish government’s website.

FEMA has proposed leasing a 5.74-acre field at 3501 Houma Blvd., where it would install utilities, gravel roads, trailer pads and a perimeter fence around a camp that would house an office and 28 manufactured house trailers. The temporary housing units are to be assigned to people still displaced by last August’s Hurricane Ida.

The proposal says the temporary housing would be provided “with an expected occupancy up to 18 months” and that “no long-term adverse impacts are anticipated from the proposed project.”

“They are people from Jefferson Parish - our neighbors - who still need a place to lay their head at night,” Jefferson Parish councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken said. “It is temporary. ... I can’t say it’s the best solution. Look, how many months are we from Ida? I can’t say that this has been an efficient process. People have really been at loose ends. But, to the extent that people still have to have a place to go, I think it’s an option.”

Not everyone seems so sure, however. Some Metairie residents began questioning on social media the wisdom of the proposal, it’s potential impact on flood protection, traffic and crime in the area, and why the disaster relief agency launched its three-day public comment period over a weekend with scant notice, running from Saturday at 8 a.m. through Monday at 5 p.m.

The entire 47-page proposal for what is called the Metairie Group Site can be found here on the FEMA website.

The proposal says that because of the catastrophic damage incurred in Jefferson and nine other parishes from Ida, “FEMA estimates that approximately 683 households will require direct temporary housing assistance in Jefferson Parish.

“While approximately half of this need has been met with private and commercial sites, there remains a need for 343 additional Mobile Housing Units. ... The development of the Metairie Group Site would alleviate the need for 28 housing units in Jefferson Parish.”

Citing “the emergency nature of this action,” FEMA and government officials will only accept “substantive comments” from the public through Monday at 5 p.m. under strict conditions. Comments can only be submitted in writing, via email addressed to dr-4611-fema-ehp-ia@fema.dhs.gov. Such emails sent before the deadline also must contain the subject line: “Temporary Housing – Metairie Group Housing Site (JE-05)” in the subject field.

“If no substantive comments are received, the Draft EA and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) will become final and no further public noticing will be conducted,” the FEMA notice said.

FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering said the agency is running out of options to house Ida survivors still in need of government assistance.

“Our first option is RVs and similar commercial mobile home sites,” he said. “But there just aren’t enough pads out there. And so we need to do these (temporary camp sites). But we want to be sensitive to both the survivors who need housing and the (camp-adjacent) residents.”

Any questions regarding disaster assistance or the availability of emergency housing should be directed to FEMA’s Helpline (1-800-621-3362) or the agency’s website www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

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