The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has approved Oregon’s Action Plan to spend $422 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to assist communities and survivors who continue to recover from the 2020 Labor Day Fires. Although recovery of the more than 4,300 homes in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion counties has taken far longer than anyone hoped, HUD approval of the Action Plan is an important step.
“Recovery has been tough for families and individuals who have struggled during the past two years to find safe and permanent housing,” said Alex Campbell, chief external affairs officer of the Disaster Resilience and Recovery Division at Oregon Housing and Community Services. “With the approval of the Action Plan, we are on step closer to bringing much needed funding to these communities. The next step will be completing a grant agreement with HUD. We are asking survivors to get ready to apply by collecting documents and talking to a disaster case manager.”
Administered by OHCS, the federal money will be used to set up several new programs to help individuals — regardless of residency or citizenship status — households, and communities to recover. This effort, which is called ReOregon, will begin to provide new permanent housing in the areas most impacted by the fires in 2023. In addition, a number of new affordable housing projects for fire survivors are under construction or will be built soon.
Help with navigating housing recovery for 2020 fire survivors is already available thanks to funding put into place by the Oregon Legislature called Wildfire Recovery and Resilience Accounts, or WRRA. Survivors can access WRRA support through a local community action agency or similar organization. WRRA can help with both rent and move-in costs and, in some cases, financial assistance for replacing lost homes. Find a local contact for WRRA at Re.Oregon.gov by clicking “Assistance available now.”
ReOregon includes several programs to assist fire survivors. First is the Homeowner Assistance and Reconstruction Program (HARP), which will launch early next year. The first phase of HARP will be open to fire survivors who are low or moderate income and have not yet completed their recovery, i.e., do not yet have a permanent, safe home. Low or moderate income will be defined as an annual household income, adjusted for household size.
For example, a two-person household earning $58,150 or less would qualify for phase one.
For eligible survivors who have not started rebuilding, OHCS will provide new manufactured or modular homes to replace lost homes. The size of the replacement home will be based on the size of the home that was destroyed and, in some cases, by need based on number of individuals in the household. For homeowners who have already started to rebuild, or have already made a substantial down payment toward the purchase of a new manufactured home, the HARP program can help fund remaining costs. Survivors will contribute any previous benefits, such as an insurance payment or FEMA structural damage award, toward the project.
Survivors should take several steps this fall to make sure they are ready to apply for ReOregon benefits:
- Connect with a disaster case manager (DCM). A DCM provides a case management approach with a defined plan and recovery goals that identify unmet needs. They work toward those recovery goals with the survivor and provide services such as referrals for housing navigation, employment training and procurement, family stabilization resources and mental/behavioral health connections. If survivors aren’t currently connected to a DCM, they should call the DCM hotline at 833-669-0554.
- Housing navigators are the best point of contact for housing recovery issues, including help with finding a new rental or accessing financial assistance to help rebuild or replace the home. Find a local housing navigator at Re.Oregon.gov by clicking on “Assistance available now."
- Collect the documents that survivors will need to apply:
- Evidence of fire impact (type of home, proof of loss, household size)
- Income and bank statements (survivors will need their most recent documents at the time of application)
- Record of any other benefits or recovery supports received, including insurance payments.
- Photo ID for all household members over the age of 18.
- Sign up for (bilingual) email updates at Re.Oregon.gov.
New housing projects for fire survivors
Multiple affordable housing options, including rental and homeownership opportunities, are in various stages of development and will be accepting applications in the coming year. Projects with OHCS funding will provide hundreds of new homes that will be built for low- and moderate-income households with a preference for survivors in the counties hardest hit by the 2020 Labor Day Fires.
For more information, visit Re.Oregon.gov.
Source: Oregon Housing and Community Services