FEMA emergency homes were destroyed by the elements as they lay unprotected in storage

Tuesday, November 14th 2006, 4:52 pm
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Hundreds of modular homes bought by FEMA for victims of last year's hurricanes were damaged beyond repair as they sat unused and, in many cases, unprotected from the elements, the agency said Tuesday.

The failure to protect the homes from the sun and rain while they were in storage was outlined in a report by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency bought the homes as emergency housing for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But many sat unused for months at an Army depot in Texarkana, Texas, because of restrictions on where such homes could be erected, FEMA said. A June inventory had 1,790 homes at the site.

FEMA put the total damage to homes both salvageable and unsalvageable at $5 million. The homes cost an average of $36,000 each, according to FEMA.

FEMA spokeswoman Debbie Wing said it appears at least 250 homes are not salvageable. That is worse than the inspector general's assessment, which indicated that all but about 110 houses might still be usable, though with some repairs.

Modular homes are made in large pieces in factories, so that they can quickly and easily be assembled.

About 1,000 of the homes are in Louisiana to provide teachers with temporary housing, Wing said. Some are already being used for that purpose, she said.

According to the inspector general, most of the homes appeared to have been protected by manufacturers' packaging. But in many other cases, sun and rain ruined tarps and cardboard boxes, and the wood and other pieces warped.

``For future planning, given that some modular home units are designed to be assembled soon after they are received rather than stored, many modular home units are questionable choices for emergency housing,'' inspector general Richard Skinner wrote.