Online FEMA trailer auction extendedFEMA spent some $2.7 billion for roughly 145,000 units after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, but has had trouble storing them
By Noel E. Oman
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Eleven of 13 online auctions of more than 100,000 Hurricane Katrina-era mobile homes and travel trailers that were supposed to end Friday have been extended two weeks, according to the U.S. General Services Administration auction Web site.
The auctions include one lot of more than 15,000 units that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has stored at Hope Municipal Airport. The other units are spread across storage sites in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D- Ark., while welcoming the delay, wants to see more definitive action from the federal government.
"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," Ross said in a statement.
Ross and the rest of the state's congressional delegation sent letters this week to the General Services Administration, FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development urging a halt to the auctions after mobile-home and recreational vehicle dealers said the sales would devastate an already depressed market.
"Selling 15,000 units as one 'lot' to one buyer at what amounts to a few hundred dollars per unit sets up a 'middleman' who can then turn around and sell these units to customers at a huge profit," Ross said. "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." Ross also held out the possibility that some units could be sent to Haiti, where, he said, "hundreds of thousands of people are left homeless from the earthquake earlier this week." FEMA spent some $2.7 billion for roughly 145,000 units after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. But the agency then had trouble finding suitable sites to place the units, and concerns over formaldehyde levels in the units also limited distribution.
In October the General Services Administration, at the direction of FEMA, began selling lots of the units numbering in the hundreds. The auctions of 1,047 units from Hope raised $7.2 million.
Several thousand units remain on the grounds of the Hope Municipal Airport, which is leasing more than 200 acres to the federal government for $30,000 a month, said Paul Henley, the airport's manager.
The latest auctions include 8,872 mobile homes, 92,0289 travel trailers and 2,579 park models.
As of Friday, 34 bids had been submitted for the lot in Hope, which has 11,164 travel trailers, 3,719 mobile homes and 30 park models. The highest bid is $6,751,000, which works out to $449.67 per unit. The auction has been extended until Jan. 29.