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The practice could also be contributing to slowing down the recovery process, the IG said. Organizations that delay selling their property means more buildings are sitting empty and unused, and are not sold to businesses that might be able to repair and reopen them.

Investigators presented the example of Catholic Charities Housing, a nonprofit that owned an apartment building for low-income senior citizens. FEMA gave the group a $5.5 million grant to purchase land and cover other costs for a new apartment facility after the original site was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. But the old property is estimated to be worth $5.9 million if sold, meaning the government would get its grant back and the charity would net only $400,000.

Now that FEMA considers that case closed, however, the charity will keep all $5.9 million when it sells the old property. Investigators are concerned that the lost refunds could make it more difficult for FEMA to grant funds next time.

Investigators also noted that as of 2013, the charity still had not sold the old property, even though it is near several hotels and casinos, who may be interested in buying the space.

If sold, “the property could have generated approximately $700,000 annually in tax revenue,” the IG said, noting that this was “potentially taking away needed revenue for a recovering community.”

Mr. Redlener said rebuilding of devastated towns has been slow.

“The endpoint, which is to get people back in homes and in communities that have been recovered, is just not happening at a rate or a level of efficiency that the public would expect,” he said.