$229,000 FEMA Trailers

Your tax dollars hard at work. Agency spent more on trailers than it would have cost to buy new houses.
Your tax dollars hard at work. Agency spent more on trailers than it would have cost to buy new houses.

Comments from yesterday’s blog post prompted me to look up the cost of FEMA trailers for Hurricane Katrina victims. We all know the government buys $600 toilet seats, but this report about FEMA trailers really shocked and disgusted me.

“A new report by government watchdogs obtained by NBC News estimates expenses for each FEMA trailer at the Port Bienville site could reach a staggering $229,000.

“I could have bought a brand-new trailer! Or a house even!” Guidroz says.

She’s right. Guidroz could have bought a $200,000, 3-bedroom house nearby, with money left over.

Investigators with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) say the trailers themselves cost only $14,000, but FEMA wasted big money by placing them at a small temporary site built from scratch with huge maintenance costs.

The GAO found that over a seven month period, FEMA made a total of $30 million in improper or fraudulent payments for trailer maintenance alone. The investigators also found examples of phony inspections, rigged bids, and excessive payments.”

Read the full article at NBC News.com

Owen: Back to yesterday’s discussion about building things to last. Jay pointed out how sometimes it’s best to build low cost temporary structures, and then brought up how FEMA trailers are a terrible waste. He said straw bale emergency shelters would be a thousand times less expensive and better to live in than FEMA trailers. (See video here.)

Of course FEMA will never build straw bale emergency shelters. There’s no money to skim off the top. No way for insiders to profit. No pork. Related: I just heard about a photographer who was threatened with arrest for trying to photograph one of the shoddy FEMA camps in Louisiana. Guess they don’t want the negative publicity. So much for free speech.

Idea for the next disaster: Volunteers could build a straw bale shelter or earthbag shelter near the disaster area and let people decide where they’d rather live. The main challenge would be finding a place to build it. Build it nice enough — maybe splurge $1,000 or so above basic costs — and many people would choose one of these over the FEMA trailers (especially if they knew about the high risk of lung diseases and cancer from all the nasty chemicals in trailer houses). Can you imagine the massive embarrassment to FEMA? The headlines would read something like “Family chooses $1,000 straw bale shelter over $229,000 toxic FEMA trailers.”

Image source: Government Auctions.org

12 thoughts on “$229,000 FEMA Trailers”

  1. Here’s a thought experiment about how the money was so recklessly spent on these trailers. I’m not suggesting that government buy everyone homes, but just imagine the huge impact on the economy if these hurricane victims had been given homes instead of trailers. (The money was spent anyway. Better to spend it on something worthwhile instead of pissing it away on trailers that were soon sold afterwards for only $2,000.)

    Positive benefits:
    – more healthy, secure environment for families who could have more readily returned to productive lives, thereby needing less government aid
    – huge boom in home building in the area… more jobs, more sales for building supply centers, real estate agents, etc.

    Negative impacts if not handled correctly:
    – rising cost of housing in the area due to supply and demand (perhaps temporarily freezing existing house prices until every family received homes would prevent price gouging)
    – long term housing costs in the area would obviously go up once the freeze was lifted
    – future disaster victims might expect free homes

  2. Owen referenced a comment I made yesterday under the “Build Homes that Last” blog post.

    The claim I made yesterday was, “Owen’s strawbale emergency shelter would be 1000 times cheaper and better to live in than those nasty toxic FEMA trailers, and they could be built at an astoundingly rapid pace.”

    Full disclosure.

    I pulled that number out of my backside.

    I thought I was being hyperbolic. I thought I was (humerously) exaggerating as a literary effect to draw attention to the point I was making.

    Now today, Owen posts this article and I discover that my “to crazy to be true” number I typed in to shock people may not be too far off from the truth.

    Yesterday I commented that if farmers near a disaster area were asked, many of them probably would be happy to donate whatever straw bales they could spare to help someone homeless from a nearby disaster. I also commented that volunteers could use those strawbales and salvaged other parts from the debris piles in the disaster aftermath.

    If that strategy were employed, it is very possible that strawbale emergency shelters could be built for $229/each.

    I take no pride in having my attempt at a lame exaggeration actually being kinda true. In reality, I feel rather sick. Almost as sick as if I had been breathing moldy formaldehyde laced air inside a crappily built FEMA trailer.

    Owen… nice job. Great find on the article. I was somewhat aware the FEMA trailers were a boondoggle, but I never realized how much.

    • I agree with you 99%. The cost though would likely be more than $229. The shelters would likely have to compete with the available alternatives (in the US at least) to have any reasonable chance of acceptance. The FEMA death chambers, I mean trailers, are 30′ long, have a bathroom, kitchen, electrical, etc.

      Here’s a photo I found of a FEMA camp. Looks like you’d have lots of neighbors!!! Hope you don’t like privacy and peace and quiet. http://www.modularhomecoach.com/2010/03/unsafe-fema-trailers-sold-at-auction.html

      That article says the FEMA trailers cost $18,620 and sold for $2,146 each. They talk about the ongoing health costs for all the people who end up living in these death traps. Way to go FEMA. Frickin’ idiots.

      • Owen Geiger said:
        “I agree with you 99%.”

        Touche’, my friend. Using my own literary form right back at me.

        That line made me chuckle. Very well played, sir.

  3. G0vernment is a scam, but then again money is fiat LOL

    Jasques Fresco has had a plan for a logical working society for years, he teaches us that our problems are not political, they are technical.

  4. Good story and excellent points. I wonder if they’re democrats?? I too have opinions on this government and all their lackeys. Yeah…that’s the republicans and the democrats. And they wonder why there’s so little trust in them today. This is a perfect example of why.

    • I think the Dems and Repubs are all in on the scam. And as wasteful as this FEMA trailer incident is, it’s only a drop in the multi-trillion dollar bucket of waste. For one of the best expose articles about insider corruption, see Matt Taibbi’s article about price fixing in Rolling Stone magazine.

      Everything is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

      • Eventually one might draw the conclusion that none of it is real. The money is just paper, the people in power are just sociopaths, the borders are just lines on a map, and we have been brainwashed since birth to believe it.

        I don’t believe in any of it anymore LOL

        • People call it the Matrix. It some ways it’s not real. It’s a manmade, artificial construct of the mega rich designed for maximum control and exploitation. Doesn’t seem healthy, natural or positive to me.

    • Just to clarify a few points of fact.

      Katrina hit New Orleans August 25, 2005

      The article Owen referenced in this blog post quoting the costs as $229,000 per trailer was written November 15, 2007.

      The simple fact is that this particular wasteful tragedy happened under a Republican administration. FEMA was run by Michael “heck of a job” Brown(ie) and David Paulison at the time. Both of which were appointed by George W. Bush, a Republican president.

      Those are the facts in this particular case, and they really cannot be disputed.

      Don’t misunderstand. I believe both Republicans and Democrats, (as well as Libertarians, Green Party, and many others) are corrupt. The only real difference is the nature of the lies the various sides tell to cover up their particular corruption and where the corrupt money tends to go.


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