RVs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are available through auctions on the U.S. government website GSAAuctions.gov and from private investors selling on eBay, GovernmentAuctions.org and similar websites. FEMA RVs may be hazardous due to substandard building materials and exposure to flood water, so buyers should be cautious.
Since 1992, FEMA has provided RVs as shelters for victims of disasters, including Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. The government lends these RVs to people in need and maintains ownership, but until 2007, it also sold the trailers to residents at deeply discounted prices. Direct sales were halted after residents of these RVs developed unusual health problems. A study in 2008 found toxic levels of formaldehyde in 42 percent of FEMA trailers tested, and as a result, two class-action lawsuits were settled in 2012 among FEMA RV residents, the RV manufacturers and FEMA contractors.
When the U.S. government decided that selling RVs to individuals and families was legally risky, it banned their residential use. Even so, it sold more than 140,000 of the units to private investors to recoup part of the approximately $2 billion investment. The government provided warning signs and required buyers to sign a contract promising not to sell the RVs as housing. A five-year prison sentence is possible for offenders, but the RVs are still being sold for housing nonetheless. The units are also sold for scrap.
Several models of FEMA RVs are sold. Most are one-bedroom trailers designed to accommodate two adults and two children. Furniture, heating, air conditioning, kitchen appliances and showers are included. These structures are poorly insulated and may sway in high winds. Many required serious maintenance despite being used a short time.