The cramped, camper-style FEMA trailers, which evoke nightmarish memories for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, are a thing of the past. 

On Thursday, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency unveiled what they're calling a new and improved temporary housing unit for Louisiana homeowners and renters displaced because of this month's historic flooding.

At least one of the units is scheduled to be delivered and set up at the property of a flood victim on Friday. 

The units are relatively spacious, ranging from one to three bedrooms and 870 to 980 square feet. They're outfitted with full-sized refrigerators and ovens, and they're modestly furnished with a small couch, mattresses, a table and chairs, a microwave and a coffee maker.


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The units have walk-in showers, accessible for people with physical disabilities. Some of the bedrooms have closets. 

They have hook ups for a washer and dryer, smoke detectors, a sprinkler system, in case of a fire, and central heating and cooling.

So far, 56 households have been approved for the temporary housing units. Almost 500 more households are in various stages of the process and are awaiting approval, said Willie Nunn, a FEMA coordinating officer. 

Nunn said currently the housing units are being offered to people with space on their own property or at pre-existing commercial parks. The site must have working utility connections.

It's unclear if there will be a need for public space to house multiple units for people who don't have private space, as was the case in Hurricane Katrina. 

"We're already looking at that. We're working with state and local officials," Nunn said. "If we have to go with group sites, we're already looking at past group sites to make sure they're feasible and they're not in a flood zone." 

But so far, officials are still just trying to figure out what kind of demand there will be for temporary housing.

More than 100,000 people have registered for assistance from FEMA because of flood damage. But it's expected that the vast majority of those people will not be requiring the mobile units.

Nunn said FEMA would keep pace with the need, but he didn't have a time line for how long it would take for units to be made available.

On Thursday, he said at least a dozen were in transit to Baton Rouge. 

The travel-trailers used to house thousands of evacuees after Katrina became something of a symbol of the dysfunction of the recovery effort. Elevated levels of formaldehyde were identified in the trailers, resulting in a class action law suit from Katrina victims. 

"I completely understand why when folks hear trailer or manufactured homes, they'd take a step back and remember their experience from Katrina a decade ago," said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on Thurday during a visit to flood ravaged areas in Denham Springs. "There were a lot of lessons learned from last time." 

Officials stress the new models are completely safe, and meet federal safety standards. 

So far, the new units have already been used in South Dakota, after severe storms last year left members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe without homes. Nunn also said about 20 of the units were deployed to north Louisiana after flooding caused an earlier catastrophe in March.

Eligibility for the mobile housing units is based on location, local zoning and other factors. Flood damage to the home must exceed $17,000 for home owners, but renters whose homes were destroyed are also eligible.

But officials have said they hope the units will be something of a last resort, and that most households will utilize a federal repair program or the "Shelter at Home" program, which helps people get their home inhabitable enough that they can live in it while doing long-term repairs.  

Disaster assistance can be applied for online at, calling (800) 621-FEMA or in person at a disaster recovery center.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.