Officials stress importance of permanent housing
by Staff Reports
Aug 23, 2011 | 1957 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A home on Burlington Avenue in Cordova is currently under construction. Disaster relief officials are urging residents affected by April’s tornadoes to now seek permanent housing. - Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
A home on Burlington Avenue in Cordova is currently under construction. Disaster relief officials are urging residents affected by April’s tornadoes to now seek permanent housing. - Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
BIRMINGHAM — For Alabamians affected by the April storms and tornadoes, disaster recovery officials are urging that now is the time to work toward a permanent housing plan.

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are encouraging residents to consider all options available, including local resources, in making a long-term plan.

“Finding and securing permanent housing can be a daunting task, especially for disaster survivors,” said Jeff Byard, state coordinating officer for AEMA. “It can be tough to know where to begin. Three things survivors can do now to begin the process is to save money, save receipts and stay in touch.”

Whether the solution is long-term rental housing, rebuilding a home or looking to buy a home, FEMA officials say the first thing residents should do is begin setting aside as much money as possible.

“By saving up, you’ll be better prepared to act when you find a housing solution that fits your needs,” said Mary Margaret Walker, a FEMA public information officer. “It’s very important to document your recovery costs, especially if you’ve received grant money from FEMA.”

Walker said citizens should make sure they save receipts from supplies, contractor work and any other disaster-related expenses. This will help state, federal and voluntary agencies provide further assistance.

FEMA representatives are continuing to help tornado victims and can be reached by contacting a local caseworker or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585. Phone lines are available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Different situations call for different plans of action. If rental assistance through FEMA has been received, the following steps will assist in securing a permanent housing plan.

If looking for rental housing:

•Document all attempts to find permanent housing. Every time you call a landlord, write it down. Not every home will fit your needs, but you must make the attempt.

If rental housing has been found:

•Update your status with FEMA by contacting your caseworker or calling the helpline. FEMA needs to know of any changes.

If you are a homeowner rebuilding your home:

•Ensure that you have all required permits and find a reliable and reputable contractor. FEMA does not certify contractors.

•If you are living in your home, you may use your rental assistance grant to assist in the rebuilding of your home.

•If you applied for a Small Business Administration loan, check the status of your application. Call the SBA toll free at 800-659-2955 or (800-877-8339 TTY).

•If you were denied an SBA loan, you may be eligible for more federal assistance. Call the FEMA helpline for more information.

Disaster relief officials are stressing there are many resources available to help find permanent housing.

“There are a variety of resources for survivors who need assistance,” said Michael Byrne, federal coordinating officer for FEMA. “Doing your research and finding the best fit for you and your family will make a big difference in your recovery.”

Housing resources can be found online at the FEMA housing portal at The housing portal is an online tool that allows residents to search rental housing in their area. Searches for properties can be conducted by bedroom, price and location. The portal combines rental resources identified and provided by federal agencies, private organizations and the public.

To provide practical housing solutions, the State of Alabama has created an initiative using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development online database at At the website, citizens can locate foreclosed homes and get information on how to use federal disaster grant money to purchase a home. Homes that need repair will then be referred to volunteers in the state to perform those repairs. For more information, visit the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs website,

Survivors with functional needs who require assistance finding and moving into permanent housing or help with rebuilding are asked to call Alabama Connects 2-1-1 for help from voluntary agencies.