RECOVERY S L OW
The city of Houston is carrying out a number of Hurricane Harvey recovery programs using Community Development Block Grant funds. At the heart of helping families recover at the individual level is the homeowners assistance program.
Houston contributed to the GLO being labeled a “slow spender,” a denition given to grantees that have spent 10% less than the monthly pace required to use the grant by the deadline. The audit, which looked at how much had been spent as of August 2020, found the city had spent 1.8% of $1.28 billion, or $22.8 million. “These conditions occurred due to signicant disagreements between the city and the Texas GLO over how to implement the city’s programs,” HUD ocials wrote in the audit. However, the fact that the audit only looked at progress as of August 2020 rendered it essentially defunct by the time the city got a copy in September 2021, said Derek Sellers, deputy direc- tor of the HCDD in Houston. The city has since been reimbursed for around $219 million, a gure Sellers said takes into account money that has not only been spent but has also gone through the GLO’s invoice process and been approved for reimbursement. More than 1,100 single-family home projects have been approved in Hous- ton by the GLO, according to a city-run dashboard, including 348 homebuyer assistance projects and 526 home- owner assistance projects that have been completed as of Feb. 14. Through its own homeowner assistance pro- gram in Houston, the GLO reported 1,332 approved applications and 272 projects completed as of Feb. 25. Since the audit, the state has also set benchmarks for exactly how much fundingmust be spent in each program at various points leading up to the 2024 deadline, Sellers said. According to the latest contract between the city and state, the citymust spend95%of its $82 million in homeowner assistance fund- ing, 60% of its $33 million in homebuy- er’s assistance program and 60% of its $450 million in multifamily funding by the end of 2022. Benchmarks were also set for the remaining $270 mil- lion, which has been earmarked for the city’s small rental, new single-family development and buyout programs, among others. In addition, HUD also provided the GLO an option to have the nal dead- line to spend the funding extended to August 2025 or 2026 to accommodate delays caused by the coronavirus pan- demic. The GLO has not extended the deadlines as of press time, but Sellers said the city is pushing for it. Barriers tohelp In the years since Houston was allo- cated more than $1 billion for Harvey assistance, control of that funding has
A Jan. 4 audit showed Houston’s progress as of Aug. 20, 2020.
297 people had been assisted out of 8,784 total participants.
Houston spent $22.8 million of $1.28 billion in grant funds
Available to all income
rehabilitation and reimbursements
levels, portion must be spent on low-to-moderate income households
In March 2021, the Texas General Land Oce took ownership of more than 3,000 les from Houston’s homeownership assistance program, leaving the city with just over 1,400 les and reducing its overall funding to $835 million.
Can help with: • repairing homes damaged by Harvey; • elevating homes above ood level; and • improving a damaged home so it is more resilient against natural disasters.
Houston reimbursed $219 million. City program funds now total $835 million.
Houston's homeowners assistance program*
*AS OF FEB. 14, 2022
STATE HAS UNTIL AUG. 17, 2024, TO SPEND THE FUNDING BEFORE HUD DEADLINE.
A LOCAL LOOK
T C JESTER BLVD.
Houston has announced more than 1,500 projects as a part of its homeowner assistance program across the city. Projects largely target areas of south and northeast Houston but have also been announced in the Independence Heights, Northside and Greater Heights areas.
start the Harvey Forgotten Survivors Caucus—a group of homeowners and renters struggling to get through the assistance program in Houston—in October of that year. Working with the group helped shed light on parts of the application process Orduña said she believes are awed or broken. In the meantime, Harvey’s survivors have continued to suer the eects of the storm, with low-income families feeling the brunt of the long- term consequences, she said. “Most of these people don’t even have themoney to patch thewalls,” she said. “They are living in broken foun- dations, in houses that keep shifting. ... They are incurring extra costs that they could use to patch the home, but now they have to spend just to keep the house survivable.” Houston has announced a handful of projects in the Heights area, including new multifamily construction proj- ects on Dian Street and Winston Street and 11 homeowner assistance projects across the Greater Heights and the Lazybrook/Timbergrove area. ‘Slowspender’ Congress appropriated $5.02 bil- lion in Harvey recovery funding to the GLO in September 2017, $1.28 billion of which was allocated to Houston in August 2018. That total would later be decreased to $835 million in a contract amendment. At the federal level, the distribution of the funds is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which set a deadline of August 2024 for when the GLO had to spend all of the funding. In the Jan. 4 audit, the U.S. Oce of the Inspector General said the city of
5 Independence Heights Announced: 15 Under contract: 0 Under construction: 0 Completed: 1 Disaster recovery funds spent: $216,715 Citywide Announced: 1,582 Under contract: 7 Under construction: 5 Completed: 375 Disaster recovery funds spent: $53.2 million
3 Washington Avenue/Memorial Park Announced: 1 Under contract: 0 Under construction: 0 Completed: 0 Disaster recovery funds spent: $0 4 Lazybrook/ Timbergrove Announced: 6 Under contract: 0 Under construction: 0 Completed: 3 Disaster recovery funds spent: $0
1 Greater Heights Announced: 5 Under contract: 0 Under construction: 0 Completed: 1 Disaster recovery funds spent: $200,966 2 Near Northside Announced: 8 Under contract: 2 Under construction: 0 Completed: 5 Disaster recovery funds spent: $1 million
SOURCES: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, CITY OF HOUSTON COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
The city has gone out of its way to help people through the process, Bynam said, including helping them get clarity on title issues in cases where a home titlemay have shifted after the death of the homeowner. Secondly, the city can only move forward on a project after getting it approved by the Texas General Land Oce, a hurdle ocials said has come with roadblocks and disagreements in how a programs are managed. Julia Orduña said she was hired in 2019 to be the southeast Texas regional director for Texas Housers, a nonprot that helps low-income individuals navigate housing programs, such as Houston’s Harvey assistance program. Through those eorts she helped
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progress has been ramping up more recently, and they are condent in their ability to get it out in time. “We’re very condent that we have the ability to spend the funds that have been directed our way,” said Keith Bynam, interim director of Houston’s Housing and Community Develop- ment Department, which oversees the rollout of programs related to the use of federal disaster recovery funding. The slow rollout of funds can be tied to several challenges, Bynam said. For one, single-family programs are inher- ently dicult, often involving home- owners who are missing documents and do not know where to get them.
COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM
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