Editor’s Note: U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., issued the following statement this afternoon in response to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announcement that the online auction of the more than 15,000 FEMA manufactured homes and trailers in Hope, Ark., has been extended two weeks to Friday, Jan. 29. More than 15,000 of these units are currently planned to be sold as one “lot” to the highest bidder and not as individual units. The auction was originally scheduled to end today.
“I am pleased to see that GSA has delayed the auction, but I want to see it canceled so fundamental changes can be made in the way these trailers are sold. To sell 15,000 units all at once is highly irresponsible because it denies Arkansans the opportunity to bid on individual units that are deemed safe and livable and allows the highest bidder to purchase them all for pennies on the dollar.
“Selling 15,000 units as one ‘lot’ to one buyer at what amounts to a few hundred dollars per unit sets up a ‘middle man’ who can then turn around and sell these units to customers at a huge profit. It can also potentially flood the market and threaten many critical jobs in our area. Taxpayers only lose in this scenario and we must explore different options.
“If FEMA and GSA insist on an auction, then I believe we should sell these units as they have in previous auctions, 200 at a time, but sell each individually so that Arkansans would have the opportunity to bid on an individual unit. However, I think we should also consider other options, such as returning to their original purpose as disaster shelter housing and at least explore the possibility of sending as many safe units as we can to the people of Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people are left homeless from the earthquake earlier this week.
Editor’s Note: As the impending auction of over 15,000 FEMA trailers stationed in Hope, Ark., approached, U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., issued the following statement earlier this week calling for the immediate suspension of the auction until proper economic and safety concerns have been addressed. The more than 15,000 FEMA trailers are currently planned to be sold as one “lot” to the highest bidder and not as individual units. The auction is currently scheduled to close on today (Jan. 15) at 4:30 p.m. CST:
“The thousands of trailers and manufactured homes that remain in Hope today more than four years after Hurricane Katrina hit is a spectacular display of government inefficiency. These taxpayer-bought units continue to sit and depreciate in Hope and at other sites across the country at taxpayers’ expense.
“For many years, I have led efforts in the House to demand that the federal government create a responsible plan to use or dispose of these units and I remain unconvinced that this latest plan is just that. Before we move forward, I believe we need assurances from FEMA and GSA that this auction will not flood the market and collapse an important industry on which many jobs depend. And, given the recent safety concerns involving formaldehyde poisoning, we must also have guarantees that these units are safe enough should they be resold to the general public.
“This auction must immediately be suspended until FEMA and GSA can demonstrate their disposal plan takes into consideration the needs of everyone involved and ensures the public’s safety.”
A fifth-generation Arkansan, Ross has served in the House of Representatives since 2001. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, including its Health and Energy Subcommittees. Ross is also key leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democratic House members that advocates the principles of fiscal responsibility and government accountability.
Last year, Ross introduced and helped pass in the House language that would have required FEMA to devise a responsible plan to distribute excess temporary housing units that have been deemed safe and ready to use.
The language, which was part of a larger transportation bill that later died in the Senate, was pulled from Ross’s FEMA Accountability Act of 2008, which would have given FEMA three months to determine the number of housing it needs on hand to shelter future disaster victims; six months to provide a plan to permanently store the units it plans to keep; sell usable surplus units and dispose the rest; nine months to implement this plan; and, one year to report the status to Congress.