The 2017 landfall of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas Gulf Coast marked the major hurricane since Hurricane Celia's landfall in 1970. The National Weather Service listed Hurricane Harvey as the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall along the Texas coast since Hurricane Carla in 1961. The 2018 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce report listed it as the second costliest hurricane to make landfall on the continental 48 states since 1900. Now, almost two years later, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is auctioning off the manufactured homes and housing units used during the storm's cleanup.
FEMA has a promotional video that shows the process of being these housing units, also known as MHU units, that are designed to assist storm victims and provide temporary housing when for disaster survivors. Channel 2 in Houston began investigating the fate of the travel trailers when they noticed some being auctioned off on the GSA Auctions website. In fact, Channel 2 even spoke to Donnie Gannaway, a consumer who bought actually bought a "brand new 2018, never-lived-in unit during a GSA Auction last month." He got the trailer for $19,244, he told Channel 2.
The news station investigated even further and found some trailers that were being re-sold on social media through Facebook groups. Many folks that they spoke to, however, don't intend on using the disaster trailers for anything other than their intended purpose. As Donnie Gannaway told Channel 2,
"I would use them for what I bought them for and not sell them new. There will be another storm. There always is."
The trailers, currently stored in Hearne at the Hearne Municipal Airport, have been inspected and will be shipped to winenrs. Hearne partnered with FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as the government agency flooded into the state to help storm victims, whether they lived in mobile homes or not. John Naron, the city manager of Hearne, told WJHG that,
"We're definitely okay with [the FEMA travel trailers] being here. As long as they want to stay, they can. The whole process has been really good for the city. It's brought in a lot of jobs and it's actually brought a lot of recognition to our town."
The FEMA trailers cost around $65,000 each but are being auctioned off at bids as low as $100. Right now, you can visit the GSA Auction website where you can find the FEMA trailers for sale in the online auction. What does FEMA say about the auction?
WJHG was able to obtain a statement from an undisclosed FEMA spokesman regarding the sale:
FEMA periodically sells surplus housing units. Like other government agencies with surplus materials, FEMA works with GSA to auction surplus MHUs.
FEMA has found that even manufactured homes that were never occupied, but stored for several years, will contain materials and products that begin to fail with time. Internal adhesives may fail after many hot/cold weather cycles, and natural deterioration occurs for asphaltic roofs and other internal and external components.
Concurrently, FEMA is receiving new MHUs from factories and previously owned units from disaster survivors, resulting in staging areas filling up quickly. To balance the requirements of multiple disasters in different geographic locations, and weigh the cost of managing the supplies, FEMA will resume MHU sales activity.
FEMA has run cost benefit models comparing refurbishment/re-use vs. the cost of selling an MHU. The results typically do not present a positive outcome for re-use when weighed against the distance travelled and the length of time a unit is occupied, which maybe up to 18 months.
For specific number of units sold and/or prices on GSA, we refer you to GSA.
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