LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Nearly four months after Hurricane Ian, FEMA will now offer temporary housing to families living in coastal areas. Only travel trailers will be allowed in places such as Estero Island, San Carlos Island, Sanibel, Pine Island and coastal communities such as Island Park.
This comes as 2,051 people are still waiting for temporary housing units from FEMA, as of Thursday.
According to FEMA data requested by Fox 4, there are 96 work orders in the process in Lee County, meaning housing units are set to be installed. There are 15 units placed in Fort Myers and 12 in Cape Coral.
However, only 14 Lee County families are physically living in a travel trailer or mobile home. 12,962 families are eligible for direct housing solutions.
"After pre-placement interviews, many of those eligible households told FEMA they found alternate housing solutions and declined FEMA temporary housing units," FEMA said.
"Getting it here is one thing. Placing is nothing shy of a construction project," said Keith Denning, deputy federal coordinating officer for FEMA. "Implementing new measures takes time."
Time so many people are frustrated about. Homeowners are still waiting for a trailer and Fox 4 asked what's taking so long.
"They will be receiving a phone call from us to determine their eligibility, what their current state is, and need is, and there will be a determination there," Denning said. "They will be given options within the direct housing program."
Denning says some of the challenges they're facing includes clearing debris, contacting homeowners, working with local ordinances and jurisdictions along with flood zone regulations.
"Much of Lee County is in zone A or AE, we have to make sure we put the right type of unit there," Denning said. "We cannot elevate a mobile home at the moment in this area, so we may have to put a travel trailer there."
Most of the trailers, FEMA says, will be on a homeowner's property. They will be able to stay in the trailer until August 1 or 180 days, whichever comes first. During this time, they need to prove to FEMA monthly they're repairing their home.
"We have a target of trying to get everyone on certain type of site by the end of February across southwest Florida," Denning said.
If a family was previously denied and they live in a coastal community, Denning said they need to contact FEMA. Cape Coral is not included in the coastal communities, but FEMA says it has the city on its radar.
They're also looking at the possibility of a group site for trailers, where Denning said it could be on smaller parcels.
FEMA says adding coastal communities to its temporary housing eligibility list will not delay other pending applications. Currently, there are 200 work orders for a trailer or mobile home with hundreds more in the pipeline.