VIDEO: Will state officials incorporate lessons from previous hurricanes in their plans for Harvey recovery?

The state’s draft action plan for spending $57.8 million in federal disaster recovery funds was released on Jan. 18. The Texas General Land Office, which oversees the administration of the federal funds, has given the public 14 days to comment. Every day untilFeb. 1 Feb. 13, we’ll be asking fundamental questions about the action plan as we draft our own comments to the GLO to advocate for equitable disaster recovery for all Hurricane Harvey survivors. 

Report on meeting with state officals on Hurricane Harvey recovery from Texas Housers on Vimeo.

 

Today Texas Housers met with the commissioner and senior staff of the General Land Office to hand-deliver our comments on the $57.8 million action plan for Hurricane Harvey recovery.

We recognize that this $57.8 million is only a fraction of what the state will see to rebuild Texas communities. There’s billions more to come. But these comments and requests are intended to proactively encourage state officials to administer federal funds in a way that addresses needs and follows civil rights law early on in the process so that recovery is equitable, efficient, and as comprehensive as possible.

Our meeting with the GLO was intended to highlight major priorities for advocates who want disaster recovery and rebuilding work for all people, but particularly those who are frequently left behind: low-income renters and communities of color. Our comments that we presented will be posted on our website early next week. For now, in this video, Houston co-director Chrishelle Palay and I debrief about what we requested and some positive responses we heard from GLO officials.

The four main requests we made were:

  1. We hope to see the GLO incorporate the four rights into the front section of the action plan. These are rights that community leaders in Houston developed that frame what the public can and should expect their government to promote. They are: the right to choose; the right to stay; the right to equal treatment; and the right to have a say. You can learn more about how these rights were developed and what they mean to the leaders  here.
  2. We request that the GLO adopt provisions into the action plan that were used during Hurricanes Ike and Dolly after our 2010 conciliation agreement. These provisions helped provide civil rights guidance to cities and states who were given federal dollars to rebuild. They also promoted accountability and transparency and provided for more robust citizen participation.
  3. We expect state officials to promote robust citizen participation that helps the public truly understand what multi-billion dollar plans for rebuilding means to them and their communities. We encourage town halls and door knocking that can help meet impacted populations where they are. The four rights mentioned above can help guide that.
  4. We want to see the GLO address the lack of affordable housing many Harvey survivors are facing. Federal dollars should primarily address the needs of low- and moderate-income households. Affordable rental housing is a good investment in Texas families that meets that requirement. The recovery will only work if the rents of the new housing created are affordable to the extremely low and very low income renters who make up many of those who lost their homes to Hurricane Harvey.

The General Land Office provided positive responses to our comments and requests. They said they hope to build on lessons learned after Hurricanes Ike and Dolly and disasters since. They also hope to use federal dollars to address the needs of renters who are so often overlooked and find innovative ways to ensure the most in need get help.

The land office staff said today that they are in the disaster recovery business for the long haul.

So are we. We will continue to examine the GLO’s plans, and our research staff continues to run analyses on available data. Stay tuned for continued developments.