ORCA has proposed to allocate the remaining $1.3 billion of the $3,057,991,440 in Ike/Dolly CDBG rebuilding funds based on a model of how much wind, storm surge and rain fell in a place rather than the amount of damage the area suffered.
This is clearly wrong, a fact that most people now acknowledge.
There is another issue at stake however. How much of the available rebuilding funds should go to rebuilding housing and how much should the local governments be allowed to build infrastructure and do “economic development” projects? This critical question has received too little attention.
Governor Perry’s draft plan would suggest that the money should be split 50-50 between housing and other uses. TDHCA says the number is firm but ORCA, the lapdog of local politicians who want to spend the money for discretionary public works project rather than rebuilding the homes of storm victims, say the 50-50 split is not firm. ORCA says local politicians can decide that they don’t have any housing need and choose to put all the money into their local budgets. This is clearly outrageous but so far Governor Perry has ducked responsibility and allowed the controversy to fester.
One of the problems here is the lack of good damage assessment numbers from FEMA. There is not a lot we can do about that at this point. Nevertheless there can be no doubt that the need for funds to rebuild housing is huge. I was reminded about this when I read Mike Snyder’s Ike one year anniversary story in the Houston Chronicle this morning. The following paragraph caught my eye…
Today, 2,180 families remain in mobile homes or other temporary housing provided by FEMA, mostly in Galveston or in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area. An additional 10,595 households are participating in the federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program, which provides temporary rent subsidies for qualified families affected by Ike.
The cost of rebuilding homes for the 2,180 families in mobile homes and the 10,595 families on the rent voucher program would be $958 million at the costs per home under the TDHCA Hurricane Rita Round 2 Recovery program and $1.6 billion at the rebuilding costs the COGs incurred in Rita Round 1 and are proposing for their Ike rebuilding programs. Keep in mind there is only about $3 billion to deal with all the rebuilding efforts, housing and otherwise for damages caused by both Hurricanes Ike and Dolly.
Let’s take the lower number and assume that the COGs cut back their housing rebuilding costs to be in line with TDHCA’s. So, $958 million is needed to get people back in houses who are still out after one year. Plus, we need to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Dolly. Let’s say that is one-quarter of the number needed for Hurricane Ike survivors. That is another $245 million.
We also need to deal with repairing the homes of people who cannot afford to do so who have not moved out of their homes. No one knows the right number. The Federal Emergency Management Agency qualified 85,245 households for its various forms of housing assistance for Ike alone, all of which require a determination that the applicant’s home was uninhabitable. Back out the 12,275 families who are still out of their home and that leaves 72,970. Let’s assume that the state decides to only help one in three of these families with repairs at a relatively low level of $15,000 per house. That is another $365 million. Factor in another 25 percent for Hurricane Dolly survivor home repairs of $91 million.
Then there are the rental housing needs. The Feds require Texas to spend 10.6 percent ($324 million) on that, which is way too low to restore the affordable rental housing destroyed by the hurricanes but let’s accept that as the number for the sake of argument.
Here is what you get,,,
Ike home rebuilding $958,000,000 Ike home repairs $365,000,000 Dolly home rebuilding $245,000,000 Dolly home repairs $91,000,000 Rental housing $324,000,000 Total $1,983,000,000 .
$1.983 billion is 65 percent of the available $3.058 billion in federal disaster rebuilding funds
This is the bare minimum that Governor Perry should require be spent from CDBG disaster recovery funds to help Texas families rebuild their homes. But the Governor started off only requiring that 50 percent go to housing and ORXCA is trying to set it up so that local politicians can spend even less.
If this happens there will be an awful lot of Texas families who need help rebuilding who are passed over. It is not right.