A Houston-based coalition advocating an equitable recovery for vulnerable survivors of Hurricane Harvey is calling on the State of Texas to prioritize the needs of low- and moderate-income people impacted by the disaster.
The group, called the Houston Rising Coalition for an Equitable Recovery, consists of several community-based organizations that work on issues, including workers’ rights, environmental justice, immigrant rights, and housing. Texas Housers is a member of the coalition, along with several of our legal service and organizing partners.
“Working in coalition at this moment is essential – even six months after the storm,” our Houston co-director Chrishelle Palay said. “Because of the coalition’s wide range of expertise we are able to meld our expertise, commitment and energy and work toward getting something done in the long run that will benefit our communities.”
The group has been meeting weekly since October and has since published several opinion pieces in newspapers, provided testimony during public governmental hearings, and communicated the importance of an equitable recovery to reach government officials and impacted people. The disaster recovery coalition is building power among low-income survivors and communities of color — those who are often not prioritized during recovery — to advocate their needs are heard and met.
“We urge you to make changes to the Action Plan which protect people’s right to affordable and safe housing, create good jobs which will allow dollars invested in Houston to remain here, and protect our environment so that Houston can recover,” the coalition writes in the opening of their letter to the General Land Office, which administers hurricane recovery for Texas.
The group divided their requests to the GLO into three main issues: Housing, jobs, and environmental health and justice.
The group asks the GLO to prioritize spending federal recovery dollars on housing up front until all housing needs are met. State officials argue that some infrastructure projects take precedence because of their larger impact on communities. We — and the coalition — disagree with that logic. Too many people, many who are seniors and families with children, do not have a safe place to call home to turn to large aspirational projects. The group also is concerned with the effectiveness of direct assistance programs in getting people back in their homes safely. Finally, Houston Rising asks the GLO to take community groups up on their offer to facilitate robust community participation in the impacted areas. Currently there is no citizen participation (that we have seen) in place.
Houston Rising writes in their comments to the GLO that the federal dollars that the state receives should be leveraged to improve worker conditions in the rebuilding of cities and town. The coalition advocates the state ensure every worker involved in construction related to the hurricane should be covered by worker’s compensation insurance. All contractors should be screened for previous labor violations and be provided support in creating apprenticeship programs for workers hired to rebuild.
Environmental Health and Justice
The coalition environmental justice experts recommend that the GLO create and develop a Regional Air Toxins Plan similar to a regional flood plan that some have discussed. Additionally, the state has a responsibility to protect communities from refineries and chemical pollutants by providing communities with the assistance to relocate. Finally, the group advocates building for a sustainable future through promoting water efficiency and energy efficiency.
The full comments of the coalition are accessible below: