Disaster housingNebraska debates disaster housing fund

Published 29 February 2012

Legislators in Nebraska are currently debating a law that would create a $2.5 million temporary housing fund for families who lose their homes in natural disasters

Legislators in Nebraska are currently debatinga law that would create a temporary housing fund for families who lose their homes in natural disasters.

The bill comes in response to the historic floods along the Missouri River last spring that left many homeless.

State Senator Lydia Brasch, the bill’s main proponent, argued that state and federal aid programs moved too slowly and victims of disasters need more immediate help. To that end, Brasch is proposing the creation of a $2.5 million fund that would provide residents with money for their immediate needs.

“I believe Nebraska has the responsibility to be prepared for the housing needs of our citizens following a natural disaster,” Brasch said. “This fund may not be enough, but at least we are doing something.”

According to Brasch, many of her constituents were forced to live in inconvenient living situations for months while waiting for state or federal aid programs to kick in. Some displaced families were taken in by friends and relatives, while others were forced to live in an empty college dormitory for months.

Brasch said the dorms were particularly inconvenient for families with young children, and if they had funds immediately available, they could have moved into apartments or found other housing arrangements that required rent deposits and utility fees up front.

Testifying against the bill, Danielle Hill, the executive director of the Nebraska Housing Developers Association, said current programs already offer effective aid and that an additional program would not necessarily expedite the delivery of aid.

“Chronologically, this would not be a first response,” Hill told lawmakers. “It’s a government program. It doesn’t solve an immediate issue. It’s not going to be any faster.”

Under the proposed law, funds for the $2.5 million emergency aid program would come from shifting that amount away from the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Homeless Shelter Assistance Trust Fund.