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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Alphonso Jackson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

September 27, 2005

Alphonso Jackson

Good afternoon. I'm Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I am glad to have the chance to answer questions about HUD's efforts in helping those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Last Friday, Secretary Chertoff of Homeland Security and I announced a new Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP) to provide relief and expedite the delivery of federal assistance to provide housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A majority of the evacuees will receive assistance through FEMA. However, many who do not receive assistance through FEMA will be eligible for benefits under HUD's Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP).

HUD, in cooperation with our local housing authority partners, will provide rental assistance to evacuee households in the affected areas that were already receiving HUD housing assistance or individuals or families who were homeless prior to the hurricane.

First, individuals must register with FEMA. Then, eligible individuals and households will be referred to local housing authorities to participate in this program. This rental assistance will be based on the fair market rent in the community where an evacuee decides to relocate. Eligible evacuees may receive rental assistance payments for up to eighteen months.

We are offering residents more than just a roof over their head. This is an opportunity for thousands of the victims of Hurricane Katrina to get back on their feet as they pick up the pieces and start anew. This Administration remains committed to filling the housing void in the Gulf Coast region and we will continue to work with our partners to help provide hope and healing to those who need it most.

Charles, from Las Vegas writes:
There has been some difficulty relocating Katrina survivers here in the Las Vegas area. I have been told that HUD is using standard criteria for Section 8 housing and not allowing Katrina survivers to recieve aid based on the need for urgent housing arrangments. Why is HUD imposing such restrictions. ie Retired persons who no longer have a home or belongings who are under rental restrictions the same as the standard Section 8 applicants. Please reply as soon as possible. Thank you

Alphonso Jackson
The federal government is working hard to ensure that all evacuees receive appropriate and timely help. The Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP) expedites the assistance process. Even though we are using a similar administrative structure as the Section 8 Voucher program, the two programs should not be confused. There is a different set of criteria for each program.

Under KDHAP, former HUD assisted evacuees and those homeless before Katrina are eligible to receive fair market value rental relief for up to 18 months with no required contribution from the tenant. To further assist evacuees, we are asking landlords to ease restrictions, such as yearlong leases and income verifications, on evacuees seeking temporary housing. Our goal is to help evacuees gain temporary housing as soon as possible so they can begin to rebuild their lives.

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
Is the government helping evacuees pay for rent on new apartments? Thanks for your service Mr. Jackson.

Alphonso Jackson
Yes, Daniel, we are helping evacuees pay rent for new apartments through the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program. Through this program HUD and FEMA are working together to help all evacuees find temporary housing.

HUD, in cooperation with local housing authorities, will provide rental assistance to evacuees that were previously in HUD assisted units or homeless. This rental assistance will be based on the fair market rent in any community where an evacuee decides to relocate and can last up to 18 months.

Through this program we will cut the red tape and bureaucracy to make sure evacuees have the flexibility, choice and portability they need to move from temporary shelters to more stable housing.

Susan, from Lake Forest CA writes:
re hurrican victims -- How about offering closed military base housing in Calif as temporary emergency housing for hurrican victim relief? ie El Toro Marine base is sitting vacant while politicians fight over what to use it for -- there is a lot of vacant useable housing that could be used for families displaced by the hurricanes What is your thought? Wouldn't The Fed Gov FEMA or some other relief organization like red cross etc re-pay the costs of housing for them at our closed bases. Calif could use the income and displaced victims would have a lot more privacy and safety than being warehoused in stadiums. Sue

Alphonso Jackson
All options are on the table when it comes to housing those affected by Katrina and military bases do provide a great place for temporary housing. In fact, some are already being utilized. The former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio; Fort Chaffee Army Post in Arkansas; Camp Gruber, an Army and National Guard site in Oklahoma and even as far away as the Otis Air Force in Boston, are all either housing evacuees or have offered to give space.

It’s our goal that those affected by Katrina are able to recover from this disaster as soon as possible.

Jason, from Houston Tx writes:
Hello Mr. Secretary How can we as college students assist in helping displaced students from universities that have been affected by Hurricane Katrina in housing? Furthermore, I want to thank President Bush and his team for a job well done on resolving this matter. Once again thank you

Alphonso Jackson
We have witnessed an amazing outpouring of support from people all across the country in response to Hurricane Katrina. I appreciate your interest in trying to help those students that were displaced.

Universities and colleges, both public and private, have welcomed students affected by the hurricane in tremendous numbers. Many are offering free room and board and in some cases tuition. As for what a college student can do to help, I would suggest contacting your college administration to see if they have accepted any displaced students or if they have adopted a University endowed charity for victim assistance. You could also create or participate in fundraisers on your campus to help those affected. Recovery from this disaster requires a national effort and everything you can do truly helps.

For further ideas on how to help look at or

michael, from Idaho writes:
what are you doing for hurricane relief?

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you for your concern regarding what HUD is doing for hurricane relief. Currently, The Department of Housing and Urban Development is working diligently to make certain every evacuee from the gulf region has a safe and sanitary home. We are identifying multi-family and single-family housing, public housing units, HUD owned homes and available rental units throughout the country to be available for temporary housing.

We are also easing certain restrictions and regulations in order to get money where it is needed sooner. We are looking at certain grant programs, which will allow those communities in affected areas to gain quicker access to money so they can begin to rebuild as soon as possible. For example, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME grantees are being permitted to request that their previously awarded grants be reprogrammed to redirect their focus to disaster recovery activities.

In addition, we have also set up the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program, which is an initiative between HUD and FEMA that will expedite the delivery of federal programs and transitional housing for the thousands of displaced families throughout the country.

chris, from third planet from the sun writes:
mr. jackson,how are you going to decide who gets which temporary housing? those cruise ships are probably highest on the list of places to stay, followed by various hotels andor mobil trailers, followed by the homeless shelters, churches, and private citizens' homes.

Alphonso Jackson
In the majority of cases people are eligible for temporary housing provided by FEMA. Given the unprecedented challenge that FEMA faces with accommodating so many evacuees, they are looking at every available form of housing. Temporary accommodations are being utilized as readily as they are available through a first come first serve basis, not according to any type of rating system. At HUD, we have reviewed vacant HUD-owned single-family homes within a 500-mile radius of the affected areas, and identified for FEMA approximately 6,000 temporary housing units. Additionally, we’ve surveyed 47 states and found approximately 42,000 rental housing units available as potential temporary housing.

Under the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program, evacuee households in the affected areas that were already receiving HUD housing assistance and evacuees who were homeless prior to the hurricane will be eligible for rental assistance through public housing authorities that can be used anywhere in the country.

EMANUEL, from VIRGINIA writes:
How do displaced families get better assistance from FEMA, HUD, and other agencies pertaining to temporary housingtrailers near their destroyeddamaged homes? My family of Father, brothers, sisters, and relatives all live in the 8th Ward of New Orleans, La. blocks away from Lake Ponchartrain. Needless to say all homes were flooded with nine (9) to (15) fifteen feet of water. FEMA's response is we are not handling that right now. We are scattered in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Virginia. Thank you in advance...

Alphonso Jackson
Emanuel, let me tell you how sorry I am for what you and your family have been through. The destruction caused by this Hurricane is indescribable. I also want to tell you that the federal government is working around the clock to help families just like yours.

On Friday, Secretary Chertoff and I announced a plan that will accelerate the distribution of federal assistance and provide transitional housing to all victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The first step is to register with FEMA by either visiting their website, or calling 1-800-621-FEMA. If you were in HUD assisted housing prior to the hurricane then HUD along with local housing authorities will provide you with fair market value rental assistance for up to eighteen months in the locality of your choice.

Joseph, from Enterprise, Alabama writes:
Secretary Jackson, What is happening to all the money that has been donated to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina? Are they getting it?

Alphonso Jackson
Be assured that money donated to reputable charities is being used in a multitude of ways to help those affected by Katrina. Volunteer organizations such as the Red Cross are doing an amazing job of helping those in need. So far the Red Cross has already spent and distributed over $500 million to meet emergency needs. From offering food and shelter to physical and mental health services, volunteer organizations are a vital bridge to long term government assistance.

Once again, I want to urge all displaced families to register for the HUD / FEMA Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program. This is an excellent opportunity for evacuees to begin to put their lives back together so I encourage them to sign up as soon as possible. They can do so by calling 1 (800) 621-FEMA or registering online at

We must all continue our work during the upcoming weeks and months to make certain every evacuee is appropriately housed. It is the Department's mission to ensure that all Americans are provided with decent, safe and sanitary housing. You have my word that HUD will always remain dedicated to that mission.

Thank you for all the great questions. I enjoyed spending time with you on "Ask the White House."

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