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Houstonians Search For Temporary Housing

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As Floridians brace for Hurricane Irma, people in Texas are still trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey, which swamped the state just a couple of weeks ago. For many, this includes finding new homes after being flooded. In Houston, some residents are having trouble finding temporary housing. As Florian Martin of Houston Public Media reports, many hotels that accept FEMA vouchers are already booked.

FLORIAN MARTIN, BYLINE: When Harvey hit the Houston area, it flooded Cindy Cruze's mobile home, and she lost everything.

CINDY CRUZE: There's no air in there. Everything's molded. It's a mess. Dead animals everywhere - the smell is unbearable. It's just not livable right now at all.

MARTIN: The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved her for transitional shelter assistance. She's able to stay at any of the almost 2,000 Texas hotels on a FEMA list. The agency pays for the stay directly for up to two weeks. But Cruze says she can't find a hotel nearby that's available.

CRUZE: Been calling every single one of them, and they're all booked.

MARTIN: That's an experience many Houstonians approved for a transitional housing are having. Some of the hotels on FEMA's list are overwhelmed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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MARTIN: Cruze paid to stay at a hotel near her work. She's new to the area and has no family here. So for now, she's checking in at a local shelter as her only option until she can find a place to live. According to FEMA, it's provided temporary housing for more than 20,000 Texas families. Around 14,000 are still in shelters across the state. Bob Howard is with FEMA in Austin. He couldn't say how many hotels are booked.

BOB HOWARD: Unfortunately, some people are having to look outside the area for temporary housing simply because of the amount of damage that has severely limited the amount of housing stock in the area.

MARTIN: He says those who've already found an apartment may be eligible for rental assistance, which covers at least the first two months. Before Harvey, Houston had an oversupply of apartments, so much so that landlords were making concessions to new tenants.

ED WOLFF: You could easily get at least one free month of rent if you signed a 13-month lease - you know, things like that. Today, that's not going to happen.

MARTIN: Ed Wolff is the president of Beth Wolff Realtors. He says with so many people looking for undamaged homes, those times are over. Wolff's house got flooded, too.

WOLFF: We went and looked at three apartments. When we got back to the desk, two of them had been leased online.

MARTIN: He says right now, Houston's apartment market is going from an oversupply to a shortage. Officials from the local, state and federal governments have begun meeting to address that and try to come up with housing solutions. For NPR News, I'm Florian Martin in Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF GLEN PORTER'S "29 PALMS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Florian Martin

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