JOPLIN — Some families who lost their homes in the deadly tornado that hit Joplin last year have been given a seven-month extension to stay in government housing, though it will no longer be free.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted a state request to keep its temporary housing units in Joplin until June 9, 2013. The trailers had been scheduled to be removed on Nov. 9, when the eligibility for free housing expires.
As many as 586 households were in the housing units supplied by FEMA following the tornado that ripped through the city on May 22, 2011. The number of households in FEMA trailers had fallen to 157 as of Tuesday, and the agency expects around 120 households to remain in the units after November, said Candy Newman, the branch chief for individual assistance at FEMA's regional office in Kansas City.
FEMA officials said it's not unusual for the agency to extend the time people can remain in temporary housing after disasters that displace a large number of families. The Joplin tornado damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, killed 161 people and injured hundreds of others.
"With Joplin, you had a huge number of affordable housing resources completely destroyed — single family homes along with several multifamily housing complexes — and it's taking some time to actually rebuild affordable housing in the area," Newman said.
Families who choose to remain in the FEMA housing will be charged rent beginning in December. Rent will be $598 monthly for a two-bedroom unit and $761 monthly for a three-bedroom unit, though families can seek rent reductions based on their household incomes, Newman said.