A current bill working its way through Congress would correct a gap in the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) delivers recovery assistance in the wake of natural disasters. Sponsored by Reps. David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) the bipartisan H.R. 3777, also called the Disaster Assistance Fairness Act, would make housing cooperatives, condominiums, and homeowners associations eligible for the same FEMA assistance available to single-family homeowners after a catastrophic property loss.
Fixing the Gap
Under current law, eligibility for FEMA aid in the wake of a disaster can be inconsistent; shared interest communities like co-ops, condos, and HOAs often do not qualify for aid via federal disaster response and recovery programs. “This makes it difficult for many families to recover and rebuild their homes and lives,” says Rouzer, the lead Republican on the bill.
H.R. 3777 amends two elements of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act, making the essential common elements of a community association - things like roofs, exterior walls, elevators and stairs, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical components, and utility access) eligible for aid under FEMA’s Federal Assistance to Individuals and Households Program. It also makes HOAs and cooperatives eligible for FEMA’s help in clearing and removing debris in the aftermath of a major disaster.
A Win for Multifamily Communities
Several national organizations are heralding H.R. 3777 as a win for multifamily homeowners and boards. According to Thomas M. Skiba, CEO of the Community Associations Institute, “Natural disasters, including tornadoes, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards, impact homeowners in every state.” The Disaster Assistance Fairness Act “will give homeowners…access to FEMA’s recovery resources to restore their condominium and cooperative buildings back to livable conditions.”
Fred Gibbs, president of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) also praised the proposed legislation, noting “The resident owners of housing cooperatives, condominiums, and homeowners associations deserve the same consideration from our federal government as individual homeowners when disaster strikes their homes.”
H.R. 3777 has been referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, and is awaiting further action.