3. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The final rule applies to entities subject to the ADA or ABA that provide emergency transportable housing units to disaster survivors. FEMA is the only entity we have identified that has recently provided emergency transportable housing units to disaster survivors. FEMA is subject to the ABA.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) authorizes FEMA to provide various types of assistance when a major disaster or emergency is declared by the President.13 When disaster survivors are displaced from their pre-disaster primary residences as a result of damage caused by a major disaster or emergency, FEMA may provide them financial assistance to rent alternative housing.14 When there is an insufficient supply of alternative housing, FEMA may provide direct assistance by purchasing or leasing emergency transportable housing units for disaster survivors.15 FEMA may install the emergency transportable housing units on private sites provided for free by the occupant of the unit; existing commercial sites such as manufactured home parks; or group sites developed specifically for the units.16 FEMA develops group sites on property provided by state or local governments or property leased by FEMA only when private sites and existing commercial sites are unable to accommodate the need for emergency transportable housing units.17 

Emergency transportable housing units provided by FEMA are currently required to comply with UFAS, the accessibility standard adopted by HUD for residential facilities covered by the ABA. UFAS requires 5 percent of the total number of federally owned one and two family dwelling units to comply with the applicable technical requirements.18 When HUD eventually updates its standards for residential facilities covered by the ABA to be consistent with the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines, emergency transportable housing units provided by FEMA will be required to comply with the updated HUD standards.

When disaster survivors apply for assistance from FEMA, individuals with disabilities are identified and their housing needs are assessed.19 FEMA maintains a baseline target inventory of emergency transportable housing units ready to deploy in response to major disasters and emergencies based on historical usage, lead time to produce additional units, and installation capacity. FEMA reassesses the baseline at the beginning of each hurricane season and may readjust it based on operational needs, lessons learned, and on-going analysis. FEMA’s current baseline target inventory is 2,000 units and 298 of the units (approximately 15 percent of the units) are targeted as UFAS compliant.20 The actual number of emergency transportable housing units in the inventory varies as FEMA deploys the units to affected areas and contracts for the production of additional units as needed. Where group sites are developed, FEMA policy specifies that at least 15 percent of the unit pads be designed and constructed to accept the installation of UFAS compliant units.21 Unit pads that accept the installation of UFAS compliant units include additional space to install an entry ramp to the unit and to provide an accessible parking space for the unit.

FEMA provided us data on the number of emergency transportable housing units, including UFAS compliant units, provided in response to 27 major disasters and emergencies declared by the President during the period from calendar year 2008 to 2013.22 During this period, FEMA provided a total of 9,324 emergency transportable housing units, of which 991 units or 10.6 percent of the total units were UFAS compliant. FEMA installed approximately 5,568 of the units, including about 569 UFAS compliant units, on private sites provided by occupants of the units. FEMA installed approximately 2,258 of the units, including about 277 UFAS compliant units, on existing commercial sites. FEMA installed approximately 1,395 of the units, including about 135 UFAS units, on group sites. Although 10.6 percent of the total number of emergency transportable housing units provided during this period was UFAS compliant, the percentage of UFAS compliant units varied widely from disaster to disaster by the type of site. FEMA informed us that some of the UFAS compliant units were provided to disaster survivors who do not have disabilities due to the lack of inventory of standard units. Thus, the actual need for UFAS compliant units may be less than the data indicate.