Though it has been over three months since Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area, tens of thousands of people remain displaced by the storm's effects. At last estimate, more than 57,000 Houston residents are still residing in hotels in the Houston area. Many of these families are receiving FEMA aid for hotel rooms that provide the only semi-permanent shelter available to them in the city.

A Big Boost For The Hotels

This has led to a giant boost for Houston hotels, which have experienced some of the country's dimmest hotel vacancy rates in recent years. It is probably a good thing that Houston had so many available hotel rooms when Harvey struck because many victims of Harvey have had their homes totally destroyed.

Rebuilding Houston After The Disaster

Many Houston homeowners are facing the prospect of having to completely rebuild their houses, which means they will need to have another place to live for at least 1 to 2 years. Other displaced Houston residents lived in rented apartments and town homes. Many of them lost all or an enormous amount of their possessions. They cannot return to their previous apartments. They now face the challenge of having to find another apartment and re-buy lost furniture and other home goods.

Insurance claims should cover some of the losses, though not all Harvey flood victims have applicable policies. Other homeowners are finding that their flood insurance policies do not cover the costs of renting a hotel room or apartment. Considering the costs of their mortgages, it is unrealistic for most people to afford their house payments while paying the costs of living somewhere else.

FEMA paid hotel rooms are the only option many families can afford. Those displaced and not staying in FEMA sponsored hotel rooms are bunking with friends and family, have left the Houston area completely, or are living in their cars or in shelters. The situation is dire for these individuals as the costs of living after Harvey are simply more than they can afford, even if they are working and have more than one breadwinner in the family.

Many family's routines have been interrupted, according to The Texas Tribune. Many families are working through a cumbersome process of filing insurance claims, waiting for insurance inspections, and finding government assistance. Some families that started these processes are still struggling to get the financial assistance they need.

The Tribune notes that many families are forced to live in separate hotel rooms or separate hotels. Work transportation has also become a challenge, with many families forced to drive long distances because their hotel rooms are far from where they used to live and where they work. This also provides a particular challenge for getting kids to school because they often are forced to stay in accommodations far from their schools.

Another challenge displaced people face are extra costs related to food and other staples. Because people staying in most hotels have no place to cook their own meals, they are forced to spend more to eat out. They also have to find places to store possessions that do not fit into tiny rooms. Overcrowding is an issue for families, who must cram several people into a tiny room and often must split up the family.

FEMA Helps With Rent Problems

In addition to hotels, FEMA is providing short term rental assistance to as many as 134,000 Texans displaced by Harvey. FEMA is also providing mobile homes, home repair grants, and direct leasing programs. Under direct leasing programs, local governments sign leases on behalf of people displaced by Harvey.

Though the post-Harvey spike in hotel-room demand has been a boon for Houston hotels, the effect is not likely to last very far into 2018, according to The Houston Chronicle. After Harvey, Houston hotel occupancy rates surged to over 87 percent, a 50 percent increase over the rest of 2017; however, with the FEMA hotel voucher program likely to end in early 2018, this occupancy rate should return to pre-Harvey levels for 2018. Part of the increase in hotel demand has resulted from FEMA workers, insurance adjusters, and others that have come to Houston in order to work on hurricane relief. The demand from these workers is also expected to end in 2018.

Most Families Were Not Prepared

Many Houston residents are seeking temporary emergency funds as they attempt to negotiate the hurricane recovery process. Many have taken advantage of Houston online title loans. Title loans are a way for car owners who own their cars outright to take a loan against the value that they can use for emergency expenses. These loans offer the advantage of allowing the car owner to raise cash without having to sell their vehicle. Since many Houston residents need their vehicles for general transportation and commuting, selling their vehicles is impractical. Title loans allow them to access the value while being able to use their cars.

Title loans are easier to qualify for than bank loans. Individuals who have a source of income large enough to repay the loan are often qualified, even if their credit score is in the lower range. Proceeds from a title loan can be used for expenses such as groceries, security deposits, furniture, and home repairs. They can also serve as a bridge while waiting to receive insurance settlements or government benefits.

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