Questions surround FEMA disaster trailers being auctioned away for cheap

HOUSTON – After certain natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency makes promotional videos to showcase how it buys manufactured housing units better known as “MHU” units to assist storm victims.

After Harvey hit Texas, the agency showed a video of new units arriving at a storage yard in Beeville, south of Victoria.

A FEMA official in the video said, "Some brand new manufactured units coming in from multiple factories and manufacturers."

Now, Channel 2 Investigates has learned of dozens and dozens of manufactured homes that recently have been auctioned off on the federally owned GSA Auctions website. Some of the trailers have never been used, and have brand new appliances and furniture inside. FEMA tells Channel 2 Investigates it paid up to $70,000 for the brand new trailers. However, the government won't get nearly that much at auction.

Donnie Gannaway bought a brand new 2018, never-lived-in unit, during an GSA auction last month. How much did he pay? "I think I got this trailer for $19,244,” Gannaway told Channel 2 Investigates prior to giving us a tour of his unit. Inside, we found new appliances and furniture, some still wrapped in plastic.

Gannaway was not the only one taking advantage of the fire sale on FEMA trailers designed to help hurricane victims. Channel 2 found one RV retailer with over a dozen FEMA trailers for sale -- looking to flip those units for a quick buck. Some sellers went to social media, selling them on Facebook in English or Spanish, even bragging the unit they have is brand new.

Although he got a steal of a deal, Gannaway has advice for FEMA: "I would use them for what I bought them for and not sell them new. There will be another storm. There always is."

We sent additional questions to FEMA. One of them specifically asked the agency how many FEMA trailers manufactured in 2017 and 2018 were sold via GSA Auctions. The agency responded, referring us to GSA Auctions.  

We then did ask FEMA Thursday evening how many MHU units they GSA Auctions to list for them going back to January 1, 2018? 

The agency could not confirm a response or required more time address additional inquires.  

About the Author: