Hurricane Harvey recovery: latest updates and intelligence

Texas Housers is tracking, reporting and blogging about Hurricane Harvey recovery. Let us know if there is something we should post by replying below.

10/23/17

From the National Low Income Housing Coalition:
“Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) sent a letter to FEMA Director Brock Long on October 18, urging him to take immediate action to ensure that all displaced survivors of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have a safe, accessible, and affordable place to call home as they recover from these disasters.” 

10/16/17

Earlier this month, the University of Texas Opportunity Forum hosted a conversation about equitable disaster recovery. The panel, moderated by Professor Heather Way, featured  Rebecca Elliott, Reporter for the Houston Chronicle; Tom McCasland, Director
Housing and Community Development Department for the City of Houston; Andreanecia M. Morris, Executive Director of HousingNOLA; Chrishelle Palay our Houston Co-Director; and  Dr. Shannon Van Zandt, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, Texas A & M University. You can watch the full panel below.

10/13/17

From the National Low Income Housing Coalition…
FEMA – Texas
  • By the Numbers: (unchanged from 10/11)
  • 321,244 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved* (of over 800,000 applications)
  • $1,065,882,029 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $815,683,611 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $250,198,418 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $327,886,760 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)
*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.
**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

10/12/17

10/11/17

  • ‘You’ve got to be careful not to turn this into a Christmas tree,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), whose district saw wind and flood damage from Harvey. “But I think the American people demand that Congress have a big heart and keep their promises to the people who were struck by a disaster.” (On the proposal by the House to authorize more than $30 billion in additional disaster relief and debt forgiveness).

10/10/17

  • From the National Low Income Housing Coalition

By the Numbers: (as of 10/10)

  • 319,363 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,040,581,528 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $794,012,800 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $246,568,727 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved
  • $327,886,760 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

  • Location of Debris Management Sites. Lone Star Legal Aid reports that Debris Management Site (DMS) has opened near a low-income minority neighborhood in Port Arthur, despite regulations requiring DMS to be located in areas that could cause harm to schools or neighborhoods, or disrupt local business. Executive Order 12898 from 1994 also requires localities receiving federal funds from a source such as FEMA to evaluate its actions for disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority or low income populations and find ways to avoid or minimize adverse impacts. The site has been operating for over a month, and attorneys at Lone Star Legal Aid have demanded the City of Port Arthur close the DMS as soon as possible.

ChrishelleBrief

Chrishelle Palay, Texas Housers Houston co-director, was a panelist in a Washington Capitol Hill briefing on Hurricane Harvey recovery issues. Chrishelle told lawmakers and their aides…
  • Congress should direct FEMA to immediately enter into an agreement with HUD to replace the motel voucher program with Disaster Housing Assistance program (DHAP).
    • Many Hurricane Harvey survivors have been displaced at least temporarily from their homes with no indication when their homes can be repaired or replaced.
    • The existing FEMA motel voucher program provides short-term, crowded housing that is subject to ending every two weeks. This puts families in a precarious situation
    • DHAP worked in pervious disasters better that a motel voucher program. DHAP provides stability and better housing for survivors.
  • Congress prevent HUD waiving the low- and moderate income targeting of CDBG-DR funds
    • Some Texas members of Congress have requested a waiver for this provision of the Housing and Community Development Act, suggesting that the threshold for families to be assisted with CDBG-DR be lowered to 50%.
    • There has been an unfortunate past record of low- and moderate-income families not receiving needed assistance to rebuild. Many low- and moderate-income survivors lack the funds or insurance proceeds to rebuild and recover with CDBG-DR. This is why the threshold exists – to help those who have little or no recourse.
    • FEMA damage assessments are not completed now. The appropriate time for waivers is once the number and amount of assistance needed by disaster survivors at different income levels is known.
  • Program transparency: Objective needs data, not political decisions should determine how disaster recovery funds are spent.
    • Congress should require that FEMA and HUD make all information about disaster needs and the state’s recovery process available to the public to understand and comment on.
    • The public needs to be able know who has an unmet needs and how public spending is addressing those needs before HUD approves the state’s Action Plan for spending.
  • Equitable flood control infrastructure must be built in low-income neighborhoods
    • Low-income neighborhoods have never had adequate flood control infrastructure. In Houston for instance, more than 80% of open ditch drainage is in communities of color. Of those open ditches, more than 40% do not stop flooding during even modest rainfall.
    • Federal funds should address these existing inequities to provide equal storm water protection to low-income communities of color.
  • In other news: Join the Texas Organizing Project this Saturday starting at 10 a.m. at the TOP office (2404 Caroline St, Houston, TX 77004) as they launch their largest effort yet to knock on the doors of people directly impacted by Harvey. More than 60 people have already signed up to help us assess the needs of our neighbors so that we can help meet those needs, whether through direct assistance or by publicly pressuring the agency that is best suited to help.Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before. TOP will offer training from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Then canvassers will go into the TOP neighborhoods. Sign up here. For more information, contact Tarasha at (713) 566-0551.

10/9/17

  • Dallas Morning News reports today,
Gov. Greg Abbott has suspended more than 200 state laws and regulations since Hurricane Harvey smashed into the Texas Gulf Coast in August.
In an effort to speed recovery from the largest disaster Texas has ever faced, Abbott has shelved at least 214 regulations meant to prevent air and water pollution, preserve hospital safety and even to inhibit the spread of disease among horses.
  • FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program (AKA the “motel voucher program”) has been extended two weeks until Oct 24. The Houston Chronicle reports today that more than 24,500 households are currently sheltered in some 2000 motels. Critics of the motel voucher program, including us here at Texas Housers, are calling on Congress to require FEMA to contract with HUD to establish a long-term disaster voucher program based on those successfully operated following previous hurricanes. This program, known as the disaster housing assistance program or DHAP, recognizes the need of disaster survivors for long-term housing in apartments rather than short-term stays in motels. It is nothing short of cruel to leave disaster survivors in the precarious position of not knowing whether they will have a place to stay or will become homeless as the hotel voucher program guaranteed period of assistance expires every two weeks.
  • Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz authored a letter signed by members of the Texas Congressional delegation that requested HUD waive certain provisions of the Housing and Community Development Act for administering funds for long-term disaster recovery. Texas Housers and our partners at Texas Appleseed object to these requests. Read our letter below to learn more.

10/8/17

  • Houston Chronicle reports rents up and vacancies down in Houston
As of Sept. 22, more than 8,123 units had been leased after Harvey, according to the most recent count from Houston-based ApartmentData.com, which began surveying landlords right after the storm to determine how many units were affected.
After reaching 96 percent of Houston-area property owners or managers, the company determined 14,852 units were damaged. That represents 2.3 percent of the overall supply.
Average rent is up at least $16 from its pre-Harvey amount to $1,000 per month.

10/6/17

From the National Low Income Housing Coalition…

FEMA By the Numbers: (as of 10/6)

  • ◦ 311,127 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • ◦ $934,841,263 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • ◦ $703,031,451 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • ◦ $231,809,812 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • ◦ $327,886,760 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

** Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

10/5/17

10/4/17

10/3/17

10/2/17

From an opinion piece in Houston Chron on Recovery.

Homeowners also experienced an unequal recovery. Neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, and Pontchartrain Park, which were bastions of middle-class African-American homeownership, still have large pockets of vacancy when compared to New Orleans’ predominantly white neighborhoods.
One reason for this was the structure of the “Road Home” program that funded home repairs and buyouts after Katrina: Compensation for homeowners was based on the home’s prestorm property value. What this meant in practice was that homeowners with similar homes and equivalent needs were provided with widely varying amounts of funding based on where they lived; a court case brought by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center proved that these disparities clearly occurred along racial lines, since neighborhoods where black families lived had lower property values than predominantly white neighborhoods (as is true throughout the rest of the country).
Houston risks a similarly inequitable recovery without immediate action. We do not yet know the exact number of low-income homeowners affected, but early projections show that more renters than homeowners were affected.
East Houston, Greenspoint, Kashmere Gardens and other areas took major damage. We also know that a large number of both subsidized and “naturally affordable” rental properties, such as the city’s garden apartment complexes, were damaged.

9/29/17

9/28/17

9/21/17

9/20/17

Rights, Principles and Initiatives for Hurricane Harvey Recovery – Texas Housers

9/14/17 

Texas Housers and other state, and local experts and community members have developed seven principles for disaster recovery.

  1. Securing help from government of all levels is accessible, understandable and timely.
  2. Everyone in need receives safe, temporary, accessible housing where they can reconnect with family and community.
  3. Displaced people have access to all the resources they need to recover housing, personal property and transportation; disaster rebuilding jobs and contracts are locally sourced and provide fair wages.
  4. Everyone is fairly assisted to fully and promptly recover through transparent and accountable programs and compliance with civil rights laws, with survivors having a say in the way assistance is provided.
  5. All homeowners are able to quickly repair or rebuild in safe, quality neighborhoods of their choice that fit the needs of their families.
  6. Renters quickly get quality, affordable, accessible rental property in safe, quality neighborhoods of their choice that fits the needs of their families.
  7. All neighborhoods are free from environmental hazards have equal quality public infrastructure and are safe and resilient.

You can sign on to support these seven principles and be among allies who stand together call on all who work in disaster recovery to adopt them.

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