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FEMA trailer denial has Cape Coral homeowner confused and frustrated

Homeowner denied trailer due to flood zone, though another person blocks away has one
FEMA trailer
Posted at 3:14 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-07 06:54:05-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — More than three months after Ian people are still in need of a FEMA trailer. One Cape Coral homeowner says she was denied, approved and denied again. This time she claims they told her it's because she's in a flood zone. However, another homeowner near her has one.

Heidi Zielinski lives in southeast Cape Coral. The homeowner with the FEMA trailer lives fives blocks south. According to a FEMA flood map, they are in the same flood zone. Now Zielinski is confused as to why she got denied.

"Why did you go through all this aggravation for weeks?," Zielinski said.

Back on November 29, Zielinski told Fox 4 her property was mapped out for a trailer. The third-party contractor told her there were no problems with putting one on her property, but didn't have a timeline.

"We were denied a FEMA trailer because we’re in a flood zone," she heard three weeks later. "There’s a trailer down the street here. I would love to go knock on the door and ask if it was a FEMA trailer."

Fox 4 talked to the homeowner five blocks south and he confirmed his trailer is from FEMA. He can't live in it right now because of electrical issues, among other things. It's been sitting on his property for a little more than two months.

We asked FEMA why Zielinski was denied when there is another trailer in her area in the same flood zone. A FEMA representative said they're looking into her case. However, they cannot provide a specific answer for privacy reasons and suggested to ask Zielinski once they contact her.

"We're just asking for a little assistance," Zielinski said.

According to FEMA's website, the agency explains how they determine if a trailer is allowed on a specific property.

"FEMA reviews whether the private site is in a floodplain or has environment impacts," the website said. "Even before an on-site inspection, a direct housing official, an environmental and historic preservation advisor and a floodplain management specialist coordinate to determine if the site is in a Special Flood Hazard Area."

Zielinski had her inspection, she said, when they measured out the property.

"Why did you even send somebody out if you knew we were in a flood zone and we were going to be denied?" she said. "It’s all in limbo, it’s all paperwork, it takes time, we understand, but we needed help."

Zielinski is living back home with no kitchen. She says she doesn't need a trailer anymore, though she says others cannot say the same.

"We’re still here, we’ll make it, but there’s still people that need help," Zielinski said.

We also asked FEMA how many trailers are in southwest Florida, how many got denied and how many applied. As of Friday afternoon, FEMA said it was working on our request for those numbers.