• Credit: Rob Spahr / NJ.com

FEMA's use of manufactured housing (the so-called "FEMA trailers") to address emergency housing needs tends to fall into a variety of patterns. In some disasters, FEMA has established trailer camps at designated locations. In some cases, the agency places trailers on the existing lots of damaged homes, so displaced families can live near their house while it's being repaired.

In New Jersey, the agency's approach has been to provide housing at scattered existing trailer parks around the state. It's less than ideal for the storm victims, who have to live in a strange place some distance away from their home, work, and children's school. That's why it's news that FEMA has finally set up a trailer for somebody on land that the evacuees already own themselves, reports the Newark Star-Ledger ("Union Beach family becomes first in N.J. to have FEMA trailer on resident-owned land," by Eugene Paik).

FEMA has been unwilling to place trailers on most existing lots that have damaged homes, because they say it's unsafe: the locations tend to fall squarely within designated flood plains, where the homes would be vulnerable in a storm. But construction worker Glenn Cottrell was fortunate: he owned a vacant lot near his damaged house, but outside the flood plain, the Star-Ledger reports. Cottrell is glad now that he didn't sell the property. "I got lucky," he told the paper: ""If it wasn't for this land, I wouldn't have been able to have this."

Luck — and persistence. It took 116 days for the Cottrells to finally get their new trailer, according to News 12 New Jersey ("Union Beach family eager to rebuild after Sandy"). "The painstaking process of getting a temporary housing unit required him to get letters from a building inspector, Monmouth County officials and the mayor," the station noted.