Texas Housers calls on state to amend Harvey recovery action plan to be more equitable and inclusive

The state must commit to an equitable, inclusive plan that will make new and repaired housing affordable to Texans with modest incomes and protect them from future storms, Texas Housers said in comments sent to the General Land Office on its $5 billion draft plan for disaster recovery.

Texas Housers also calls on the GLO to produce data and materials used to formulate the plan in order to increase the public’s ability to make meaningful comments on disaster recovery. This is the only way to foster a transparent recovery process and hold public officials accountable.

In addition to transparency recommendations, Texas Housers proposed a way for assessing unmet housing needs of survivors that allows for more low-income Texans to be factored into the plan, who as of right now are not. View more details and the video of our press conference on this topic here.

We believe that the fix is simple. Currently the GLO uses FEMA-verified loss thresholds to count a household as having an unmet need — across the board, the threshold is $8,000 for a homeowner and $2,000 for a renter. Any losses a household incurred under those thresholds is presumed to be covered by the household’s savings. We propose that the GLO adjust its thresholds for unmet need according to household income for families that make less than 80, 50 or 30 percent of the area median income.

We recommend that the GLO use the proposed methodology, or a similar alternate
methodology for the unmet needs assessment in its draft Action Plan. This way, the land office can appropriately prioritize the needs of households with fewer resources as required for the use of CDBG funding, as well as proportionally fund regions based on the unmet needs determined with this methodology.

Listed below are a few more Texas Housers priorities for ensuring an equitable recovery as written in our letter to the GLO.

Issue 3: The draft Action Plan fails to adequately provide for affordable housing, which will result in the failure to appropriately serve renter households and increase the existing severe affordable shortage.

Proposed actions:

  • We recommend that the GLO make explicit in its draft Action Plan clear rental affordability targets for each sub-recipient for the Affordable Rental Program. These targets should respond proportionally to the unmet needs identified utilizing an accurate needs assessment methodology.
  • We recommend that the GLO create an outreach plan for making affordable rental housing funded with CDBG-DR primarily available to LMI disaster victims who were renters before the disaster.
  • We request that the GLO impose agreements on rental housing providers that will
    maximize the long-term affordability of rental housing units to ensure a minimum of 40-year affordability and the mandatory acceptance of Housing Choice Vouchers.

Issue 4: The draft Action Plan provides no funding or programs to assist households with
clearing title, property tax, or other issues that prevent households from accessing assistance from the programs described in the draft Action Plan.

Proposed action: We recommend that the GLO re-allocate Economic Development and/or Local Infrastructure Program funding for the purposes of funding a program that assists disaster survivors in overcoming title, property tax, and other issues that are a barrier to accessing the benefits of disaster recovery programs.

Issue 5: The draft Action Plan fails to provide an option for CDBG-DR eligible households to choose to move out of high-risk and/or racially-concentrated areas of poverty.

Proposed action: Include and fund the Homeowner Opportunity Program as a universally available option in the Action Plan. Include an mandatory and robust outreach plan for how homeowners in HOP-eligible areas will be informed of a supported to access the program.

You can read the rest of the comment letter Texas Housers sent to the GLO below.

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