Two years of disaster recovery: we are holding our fire for now as we listen to survivors and ask government for a honest accounting

In the two years since Hurricane Harvey made landfall, so much has changed. There has even been some encouraging movement toward equity with a Harris County resolution shaping their $2.5 billion flood bond. Unfortunately, for many hurricane survivors however the amount of help they’ve received has not changed — they’ve received none.

Here is what the Houston Chronicle reports three government agencies with billions of dollars to rebuild homes have done so far:

Texas General Land Office:

Applications: 12,026

Homes approved for construction and repairs: 979

Work completed: 100.

City of Houston:

Residents invited to apply for assistance: 4,919

Completed applications: 1,961

Deemed eligible for aid: 267

Houses on which repairs are completed or underway: 15

Harris County:

Residents invited to apply for aid: 3,911

Completed applications: 123

Aid pending: 5 home buyouts

Texas Housers warned immediately after the hurricane that the recovery process would drag out unless each government entity committed publicly to a timeline for rebuilding homes with benchmarks on that timeline for the number of homes to be completed each month.

At this point the government agencies are quarreling over the published numbers. So, until we have all the facts we are holding fire so far as criticism goes. But we will point out that last week’s inter-governmental sparring in public appearances and in the media does not make any difference for the families and individuals who are still in need of the home repairs.

Texas Housers holds a unique position, we have no ax to grind and do not seek to curry favor with any government agency administering disaster recovery. We are attempting to objectively monitor what each government agency is doing as we also talk to survivors waiting for help as we work to understand how the survivors are experiencing the recovery.

What we hear from survivors is that those waiting for aid can’t wait any longer. Texas General Land Office, the City of Houston, and Harris County each need to do what we have been requesting for two years: produce a public timeline with monthly performance benchmarks for rebuilding survivors homes and disclose to the public full, detailed and honest accountings of exactly what they accomplish each month. We don’t need any more agency spin, selectively reported data and press releases blaming others and creative spinning of the lack of progress. Just disclose the unvarnished facts please.

The public should no longer let themselves be distracted by one level of government offering us excuses by blaming another level of government for delays.

Texas Housers is working hard to obtain a full and honest accounting. Stay tuned because we intend to share it with the public and with survivors so they can hold the politicians accountable.  Then people can tell their government officials, their Governor, state senators and representatives, county commissioners, city council members and the mayor to do their jobs or face real consequences. In the meantime we can say this much. The disaster recovery home rebuilding program has itself come to look like a disaster.

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