‘Draining the Swamp’: FEMA MHUs Cost, An Outrageous Misuse Of Taxpayer Money

FEMA MHUs cost approximately $129,000 – $170,000, according to a Baton Rouge Congressman.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to streamline government agencies and eliminate waste of taxpayer money created by these bloated bureaucracies. His “draining the swamp” agenda should include the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and it’s FEMA agency that has taken waste and inefficiency to a new level when responding to natural disasters.

New Secretary of Housing, Dr. Ben Carson should take note of the following.

FEMA and your tax dollars

FEMA: 'It's idiotic'

FEMA: ‘It’s idiotic’

For the amount of money FEMA is spending on temporary manufactured home units (MHUs) for Louisiana flood victims, this federal agency could buy displaced residents modest houses in some parts of Baton Rouge, land included!

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is spending an estimated $129,000 for the purchase, transport and installation of each single section manufactured home placed on the private property of a flood victim, according to a document provided U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Congressman. If the unit is placed in an already existing commercial mobile home park, then the cost increases to $149,000, because of the extra expense to lease the site pad. And if the mobile homes are placed in FEMA designated group sites, then the price can rise as high as $170,000.

Officials say the cost is infuriating. They note it’s more than double (actually three times) the market rate and argue that a more cost-effective program could potentially yield the faster delivery of the units, which would are in high demand and short supply four months after the flood. The homes range from one to three bedrooms and can be as big as 980 square feet.

“It’s idiotic. It’s the fleecing of America, example No.10,000,” said Rep. Graves. “You’re spending more money, and it’s taking longer, You’re saying ‘We may be slow, but at least we’re more expensive.’”

Louisiana manufactured housing units

Photo courtesy of The Advocate

Local retailers of mobile homes told the Advocate that FEMA acquisition costs shared with Graves aren’t at all close to market rates. FEMA estimated that it pays an average cost of $62,500 average cost for each unit, another $23,000 for installation, and then $$15,400 for maintenance. The average cost of freight, or transportation, is $5000. FEMA then tacks on a 22 percent administrative overhead cost, which adds another $23,000.

Troy Davis, who’s been in the manufactured housing business for 30 years in Hammond, said he is familiar with the model home that FEA uses for victims, which he described as a low-end mobile home. He said he could sell that particular model for $37,900, which would include profit, delivery, set-up,“skirting,” and air conditioning hookups. He said the additional sewer and water connections would cost another $600.00. Davis’s total estimated cost for the mobile home would be less than one-third of FEMA’s cost!

Davis said he was approached by “middle men” who acquire mobile homes to sell FEMA, and was asked to sell his inventory units for too low a price. “They’re not paying no more than $32,000 for the units, and then they’re getting marked up by the middle man,” he said. Davis added,”The true wholesale cost is about $20,000. And could be reasonably sold to the government for about $25,000.                                                                                                 

Robert Chambers, general manager of a national company Factory Expo Home Centers, agreed. He estimated the retail price of a FEMA mobile home to be between $15,000 and $22,000 – particularly because they can be bought in bulk. He estimated the hauling cost to be about $6 a mile and that installation would cost about $2,000.

FEMA response

Sheriff Jason Ard

Sheriff Jason Ard

In Livingston Parish, Sheriff Jason Ard took matters into his own hands when FEMA took too long to respond to the housing needs of 25 deputies. Ard said he was afraid they would have to leave the parish because many of deputies lost their homes in the flood and were still living in tents as recently as a month ago.

He said he used Sheriff’s Office money to buy 25 mobile homes for his deputies, with the hope he will be reimbursed by FEMA. He said the homes he bought were $35,000 each, and about 1200 square feet each, they’re larger than the FEMA models. The local vendor (retailer) also promised to buy them back in a year for $28,000 each. Ard said with the added expense of buying land to create a group site, the units cost about $100,000 each, which is still $50,000 to $70,000 less than FEMA’s projected costs for group sites.

Ard also said he was able to put together the entire group site for his employees, start to finish, in about 28 days, which is further infuriating to him because of the slow pace.

With the other natural disasters that have occurred within the last year, where victims are awaiting FEMA manufactured home units, there is reason to believe that the waste of large sums of money and inefficiencies are equally prevalent in those situations as well. Consider the following FEMA response.

Tito Hernandez, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer said his number one priority is providing flood survivors with a safe place to stay as quickly as possible. “I’m not thinking about the price,” he said.

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