Some three years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita swept through the Gulf of Mexico, temporary housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remains in the news. Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported dangerously high levels of formaldehyde in some of the thousands of FEMA trailers sent to the Gulf, adding urgency to the agency’s efforts to resettle victims. As the fallout continues, federal and state agencies are weighing new approaches to emergency shelter.
FEMA’s Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHPP), authorized by Congress in 2006, provides $400 million to Gulf states for the development and testing of new forms of emergency shelter, some of which is designed to form the basis of permanent housing. The alternative shelters represent a rethink of the standard-issue FEMA trailers, which were typically deployed in isolated camps, cut off from the communities they were meant to revive. Projects such as the Katrina Cottage and the Green Mobile emphasize modular construction, mobility, and sustainability. Some AHPP prototypes also address community building.