TX Legislature seeks better homes, faster repairs for hurricane survivors

It has been almost a year since Hurricane Ike’s and Hurricane Dolly’s floodwaters rose above streets, and above doors and windows, destroying countless Texas homes and affecting the lives of an estimated one million Texans. Today, far too many homes still remain in need of repair. Amid the destruction, the agony of families, and the painfully slow recovery, our public leaders should be planning how we can do better in the future when hurricanes strike.

After all, hurricane season has begun again.

At the Texas Capitol, Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) and Representative Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) have taken the lead on preventing a repeat of the confusion, lack of coordination, delays and substandard replacement housing that has characterized some state and federal disaster recovery efforts to date.

Their vision? A state plan to help families more rapidly rebuild their homes after a hurricane hits. Giving local communities and homeowners a voice in their home’s reconstruction. Immediate housing options that are not just temporary fixes, but decent and dignified long-term homes. Expediting federal housing resources to the people who need them.

The legislation, HB 2450, passed by Senator Lucio and Representative Eiland does something so simple, one has to wonder why we aren’t doing it already: it establishes an advisory task force to support local communities to come up with the best, most cost-effective and fastest strategies to rebuild homes after a disaster.

The Lucio/Eiland vision is really about allowing many visions — the vision of local elected officials, architects, homebuilders and above all of families and communities to become a reality. From the acclaimed “Katrina Cottage” to the “Texas Grow Home,” citizens and architects have already used their creativity to generate quality, affordable models of post-disaster housing. Now we need to translate the best of these housing rebuilding solutions into reality quickly.

The disaster housing task force established by the legislation will be based in the state housing agency, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and will review existing post-hurricane housing reconstruction solutions and pilot programs. The task force will recommend to the department and advise, but not dictate, to local governments the best, most innovative and most cost effective home replacement and reconstruction approaches.

The commission is charges with making recommendations within just four months to bid a final farewell to an old vision: the vision of toxic FEMA travel trailers, roofless, decaying homes, and families unable to find a true road home.