Need a Place to Live? Don't Buy These Trailers

Formaldehyde FEMA trailers will be sold to the highest bidder

Now you can own one of the trailers the federal government bought for Hurricane Katrina victims for pennies on the dollar. There's only one catch: They're not fit to live in.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency spent more than $2.5 billion to provide about 120,000 trailers to victims who lost their homes in the 2005 storm.

The government got rid of the trailers because they were found to have high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen -- high enough to exceed federal limits. They are banned from being used as housing.

Now, more than 500 of them will be sold at auction by Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers in Lake Worth on July 16. Most of them still have window stickers warning "Not To Be Used For Housing."

The trailers are required to have notices warning potential buyers of the formaldehyde risk.

"It's a good opportunity for families to come out and get a good deal on many, a variety of trailers," said Adam Kawulok, Ritchie Bros. area manager. "I think it's just really important to understand that they need to be used as recreational use only. They're not designed to be lived in permanently."

Ritchie Bros. sold more than 500 of the trailers last month at a similar auction in Houston, each selling for anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.

"We had a lot of individuals," Kawulok said. "We also had a lot of different folks that bought multiple trailers. A lot of companies will come out and use them and drag them to their job sites or hunters, something like that."

Roger Nicholson of Saginaw said he may buy one to use while he builds a permanent home for himself.

"I don't see a problem," he said after looking inside two of the trailers. "It's not bad. It's just some temporary facilities while I'm out there on the property."

The North Texas auction will be held July 16 at the Ritchie Bros. auction site at 6050 Azle Road in Lake Worth.

The New York Times reported last week that some of the former FEMA trailers were being used to house workers involved with the Gulf oil spill cleanup even though the trailers are prohibited from being used as housing. A congressman from Mississippi has since called for a federal inquiry into the use and sale of the trailers.

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