It is time to stop pretending the COG disaster housing rebuilding program is the answer

In Wednesday’s blog entry I reported on the performance of the Councils of Governments (COGs) in carrying out Round 1 of the Texas Hurricane Rita housing repair and rebuilding program. The data in my blog was drawn from a report presented by the staff of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to their board of directors last Thursday.

I was contacted today by TDHCA staff who told me two conclusions I reported were incorrect.  It seems that the data in the TDHCA board report was incomplete concerning some aspects of the performance of the COGs.

So in the interest of being accurate I am passing along the corrections provided by staff.

First, I stated that the COGs had abandoned all housing rehabilitation plans.  Staff tells me that the COGs actually have 30 rehab projects have been approved that are moving forward (five others have also been approved but will likely not move forward in DETCOG) and there may be as many as 5 more in the SETRPC region. Originally the COGs contracted to do 1,231 rehabs.  Now the COGs are on track to complete 30 to 35 home rehabilitations.

Second, I reported that the average cost per house, based on the 430 the COGs have contracted to construct, would be $93,277. State staff now informs me that the COGs are projecting they will actually replace 507 houses instead of 430. According to staff this means the average cost per home across all three COGs will be $75,000 per house. This is still a hefty sum in light of the fact 60 percent are mobile homes, but is certainly better than $93,277 per house.

While these numbers are slightly better than I reported Wednesday they still present a deeply disappointing performance for Texas’ Round 1 hurricane recovery program.

FEMA estimated that 11,195 Texas homes suffered major damage or were destroyed by Hurricane Rita.  The Texas Governor’s office estimated 75,000.  It has taken the COGs twenty-nine months to complete 340 houses.  Thirty homes rehabilitated out of the originally contracted 1,231 is also deeply disappointing. At this rate it will take somewhere between 40 and 250 years to get all the homes repaired or replaced.

It goes without saying that this is not the answer for disaster rebuilding on the scale required to deal with the destruction caused by Hurricane Ike. State and local officials should not continue pretending that it is.

Relying on the COGs to carry out the $1.3 billion Hurricane Ike/Dolly recovery program, as the State is now proposing, will be a disaster for Texans who need their homes repaired immediately.

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