State issues

Texas official in charge of disaster assistance refuses to state housing needs will be funded

Charles Stone, executive director of the state agency overseeing disaster relief in Texas says decision to fund housing is not the states but up to local officals.
Charles Stone, executive director of the state agency overseeing disaster relief in Texas, says decision to fund housing is not the state's but is up to local officials.

I predicted the process for allocating funds set out in the draft ORCA Hurricane Ike/Dolly Disaster Plan will result in a gross underfunding of the housing needs of hurricane survivors. Now we have proof that this is indeed a real possibility from the testimony of none other than the executive director of the state agency who is administering the disaster program.

In a public hearing on the state’s disaster recovery process last Wednesday in Orange, Texas the chairman of the Texas House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike Devastation, Representative Sylvester Turner, questioned the executive director of the Texas Office of Rural Community Affairs, Charles Stone.

Rep. Turner asked, “bottom line, are you going to fund housing?” The ORCA director said that it was up to the Council of Governments (COGs) and they would decide how to allocate Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster funds according to local needs. Rep. Turner responded that he is all in favor of local input but he knows there will be many hands pulling at these funds…will there be housing? The ORCA director equivocated again stating funding decisions were the responsibility of the COGs.

Consider the track record for ORCA’s annual small cities and state CDBG program. That program operates under this same approach of letting representatives of COGs decide how to spend the money. The result: it has been years since CDBG funds have been spent by the Texas CDBG program to help Texas families with their housing needs. All of the money instead is allocated by local politicians to economic development and public works.

ORCA says it encourages the COGs to use CDBG for housing but the COGs have always refused to do so.

Governor Perry must direct that the housing needs of Texas hurricane survivors will get top priority for funding. He must not turn over his authority to organizations that have a consistent track record of failing to provide any resources for the housing needs of Texas citizens.

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

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