With thousands of homes still in disrepair 6 years since Hurricane Harvey, the GLO requests to remove available funding for Houston and Harris County residents

The State of Texas has asked permission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to end its Hurricane Harvey housing repair programs in the city of Houston and Harris County in order to transfer $260 million to fund drainage projects. The State made this request despite the fact that many Hurricane Harvey survivors are still awaiting home repairs and only a fraction of the number of households the State deemed to have unmet housing needs have actually received any housing assistance from State, county, or city programs.

Two months after Harvey hit back in 2017, HUD reported the 26 counties with the highest unmet need and Harris County ranked first with 100,619 total units damaged, 55,770 total units seriously damaged and 26,669 total units with unmet need. 
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) took on the State’s responsibility of administering over $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.

Rainfall estimates from NOAA’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service for August 25-30, 2017. Hurricane Harvey dropped over 20 inches of rain across a large area in coastal Texas, with some areas observing nearly 50 inches of rain. Studies concluded that global warming had contributed to the heavy rain. NOAA climate.gov image using data from NOAA’s AHPS. source: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/reviewing-hurricane-harveys-catastrophic-rain-and-flooding

This was the first time the GLO operated these types of programs. The City of Houston and Harris County, as HUD-entitlement jurisdictions, received their own direct allocation of funding to administer their own programs. Despite the urgent need of recovering households, the disbursal of housing recovery dollars was a prolonged, constant battle between the city and state officials, ultimately ending in the GLO shifting the city and county funding of recovery assistance to a state-administered program for each entity.

The newest iteration of these programs, reflected in GLO’s Amendment 12, is taking funding out of the state-administered city and county programs in order to fund drainage projects in Harris County that were left unfunded with the diversion of mitigation funds to lower-impacted, inland areas. While we agree that more funding of drainage improvements in Houston-Harris County is needed, it should not be at the expense of disaster survivors who still are waiting for home repairs.

Given the GLO’s track record of discrimination with respect to these CDBG-Mitigation Funds, there is serious reason to be concerned with the proposed amendment. The GLO has submitted to HUD for an approval which calls for cutting off further funding for home repairs in Houston in Harris County where high percentages of people of color remain unserved only to add it to a pool they have allocated from in a discriminatory manner.

(Read more about the Title VI complaint filed by Texas Housers and the Northeast Action Collective against the GLO for discriminatory distribution of CDBG-MIT funds here.)

The GLO has been unresponsive in many ways, including the fact the agency has failed to make available adequate data to permit an assessment of its performance in administering CDBG-DR funds for housing assistance. An assessment of the limited data provided publicly by the GLO, seen on page 4 of our comments above, holds a success rate of 15% in Harris County. And while the information was not available during the submission of our comments, now we are aware that the City of Houston state-administered programs has a 16% success rate with a total of 14,351 applications received in both city and county jurisdictions. 

The question must be asked: How is it that in an area that received over 50 inches of rainfall with over 20,000 homes identified with unmet need only resulted in the construction of 2,000 homes in nearly 6 years? The math doesn’t quite add up, so it is difficult to accept the GLO’s assertion that the housing need in Houston and Harris County has been met.

We have submitted the following comments of Amendment 12 to the GLO for consideration before submitting their proposed plan to HUD. We call on HUD to truly consider the GLO’s actions and accountability to administer effective programs with the intended use of this money before moving it to other programs that were underfunded by their discriminatory actions.

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