Poll Finds Many Harvey Victims Saying They Still Need Help
Many Texas residents affected by Hurricane Harvey say in a new survey that they’re still not getting the help they need more than three months later.
By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press, December 5, 2017
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — More than three months after Hurricane Harvey walloped Texas, many affected residents say they’re still not getting help they need and President Donald Trump is getting low marks for his handling of the disaster, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/Episcopal Health Foundation survey released Tuesday.
The poll is another indication of how families along the Texas coast continue struggling in wake of the Category 4 storm, which left Houston underwater and killed more than 80 people.
Nearly half of residents who said they had property damage or lost their job or work hours because of Harvey say they’re not getting the resources needed to get back on their feet. Federal officials have approved $1.4 billion in Harvey assistance to individuals and households but the survey showed signs of confusion and frustration: More than 6 in 10 denied applicants say they received no information on how to try again.
Texas Republicans spar with White House over latest disaster aid request
After Gov. Greg Abbott panned the Trump administration’s $44 billion request to Congress for hurricane recovery, the White House quickly responded by calling on the state to pony up its own dollars.
Texas Republicans on Friday panned the White House’s latest disaster aid request, with Gov. Greg Abbott calling it “completely inadequate” for the state’s needs in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
President Donald Trump’s administration was quick to respond, calling on the state to pony up its own dollars to help with the recovery.
Unveiled earlier Friday, the request seeks $44 billion from Congress to assist with the Harvey aftermath, as well as the recoveries from other recent hurricanes in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While not final, the number is far less than the $61 billion proposal that Abbott had submitted for Texas alone to Congress last month.
Houston Civil Rights Violation Could Delay Harvey Housing Funds
Housing group wants money withheld until city addresses civil rights; Turner says talks continue
Houston could be ineligible for future federal housing grants, including disaster recovery funds for Hurricane Harvey, because it has not resolved a federal finding that its housing practices violate civil rights law.
The city has yet to come into compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act nearly a year after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found it in violation, making it automatically ineligible for certain federal housing programs and potentially imperiling its ability to qualify for others, an Austin housing advocacy group said in a demand letter sent to HUD last week.
The Oct. 31 letter alleges Houston’s recent certifications of compliance with civil rights laws – prerequisites for receiving federal funding – are “inaccurate and unsatisfactory,” adding that HUD must withhold funding until the city cooperates.
HUD allocates additional $58 million to help Texas Recover from Hurricane Harvey
Funding to support housing recovery
|HUD No. 17-093
October 20, 2017
WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson today allocated an additional $57.8 million to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey. The grant announced today is provided through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. Combined with CDBG-DR grants already allocated to the State of Texas from disasters that occurred in 2015 and 2016, HUD’s support of long-term disaster recovery in the Lone Star State now totals more than $371 million.
“Clearly, the long-term needs in Texas far exceed this allocation so I anticipate this downpayment will be targeted to address damaged housing to help Texans move forward with their own recovery,” said Secretary Carson. “As we work to allocate additional funding in a fair and effective manner, states and communities can count on HUD to be a strong partner in efforts to recover from the hurricanes and other major disasters our nation experienced this year.”
HUD relied upon the best available data from FEMA to allocate the recovery funds announced today and evidence supports the immediate allocation of the $57.8 million. The Department opted to allocate the funds to Texas as it has an existing recovery plan, as a result of funds awarded for 2016 disasters, that can serve as a rapid launch platform for the use of these funds. As additional disaster data become available in the coming weeks for areas impacted by major disasters declared in 2017, HUD will use those data to allocate the $7.4 billion in disaster recovery grants appropriated in September in an equitable and consistent manner, based on a clear understanding of unmet needs.
CDBG-DR grants support a wide variety of activities including housing redevelopment, business assistance and infrastructure repair. State and local governments are required to spend these recovery funds in “the most impacted” areas. Using data available from FEMA as of October 2, 2017, HUD determined that Texas has unmet housing needs in excess of $57.8 million as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Using these data, HUD estimates thirteen counties in Texas have qualifying levels of unmet housing needs but the situation is most severe in Harris, Galveston and Jefferson counties.
On May 5th, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (the Act), which included $400 million in CDBG-DR funding to support recovery from major disasters in 2015 and later. To determine these disaster recovery allocations, the Act requires HUD to analyze the most currently available data of the unmet costs to repair seriously damaged properties and infrastructure in the most-impacted counties. HUD had previously allocated $342 million to qualifying 2015 and 2016 disasters nationwide.
On September 8th, President Trump signed the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017, which appropriated $7.4 billion in CDBG-DR funding for major disasters declared in calendar year 2017. As more data become available with respect to unmet needs arising from disasters such as Harvey, Irma, Maria and the California fires, HUD will announce the allocation of the $7.4 billion.
The cost of Harvey recovery will be staggering, lawmakers learn
By John C Mortiz USA Today, October 2, 2017
HOUSTON — Texas is facing a critical shortage of manufactured housing and the cost of even the most basic units to temporarily house the thousands of Texans displaced by Harvey can cost as much as $140,000, Land Commissioner George P. Bush told a legislative panel on Monday.
“It is almost becoming as expensive to get a manufactured house as it is to build a home,” Bush told the House Urban Affairs Committee at special hearing at the University of Houston.
The Urban Affairs panel and the House Appropriations Committee held hearings in nearby ballrooms at a hotel on campus to get an assessment on what is being done and how much it might cost to rebuild the Texas Coast after the worst natural disaster to strike the region in memory.
Bush, a first-term Republican, was tapped by Gov. Greg Abbott to coordinate the state-federal response aimed at meeting the immediate need for housing. The land office is acting as the liaison between local officials and the Federal Emergency Management Administration to determine how best to either get people back into their homes or into alternative accommodations. The bottom line, Bush said, is that it could take from seven months to two-and-a-half years to get people permanently situated.
Meanwhile, the Land Commission has established a website, TexasRebuilds.com, to guide affected Texans through the process. The housing need has been divided into five categories: Multi-family lease and repair; direct leasing, manufactured housing options and partial repair to make homes at least livable in the short run.
Bush said his agency is working with the manufactured housing industry to ramp up production to meet demand. In a brief interview presenting his testimony, Bush told the USA Today Network that companies have told him that each can only build about 10 units per month, and that the challenge is multiplied because of a shortage of both materials and labor.
“A lot of people are going to make a lot of money in manufactured housing,” he said.
The units, he said, are typically about 430 square feet with one or two bedrooms and a kitchen.
State Rep. Jarvis Johnson, a Houston Democrat who serves on the Urban Affairs panel, said after the hearing that industry “is making a killing” off the housing crisis that followed in the Harvey’s wake.
“What they are building is the size of a garage,” Johnson said.
D.J. Pendleton, executive director of the Texas Manufactured Housing Association, said the costs are also driven up because FEMA sets higher standards for units that qualify under the federal program.
“The FEMA units are built to specs that go far beyond what you’d get for a typical retail unit,” said Pendleton, whose organization lobbies on behalf of the industry.For instance, he said, the units must be accessible for people with disabilities and must be rated for extreme weather even if they are not located in areas prone to severe weather.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a former member of the Texas House, told the Appropriations Committee that the cost of coping with Harvey’s destruction will be stratospheric. He said 27 trillion of gallons of rain fell on Houston and surrounding communities in a matter of hours after the storm that crashed the Coastal Bend with Category 4 winds turned northeast up the Gulf Coast. The cost of hauling away the mountains of debris from thousands of flooded homes and businesses will reach $260 million.
Fortunately, he added, the federal government will pick up 90 percent of the tab. The cost of rebuilding the government-owned buildings in the Houston area will reach about $175 million, Turner said. The city of Houston’s insurance tops out at $100 million, he added.
Officials have yet to make an official estimate of the cost to widen the bayous that overflowed their banks so that future flooding might be contained, Turner said. And compounding all of that, he added, was that the city simply did not have the equipment, manpower and training even before the storm hit.
“You cannot operate (city government) lean and mean” during catastrophic weather, Turner said.
The committees took no formal action but will likely make recommendations to be considered during the 2019 legislative session. Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas said his panel will hold a hearing in the Corpus Christi area for a firsthand look at Harvey’s destruction in the Coastal Bend.
While most building materials prices will likely increase in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the price for gypsum might be the first to ascend as a result of the storms.
Last month, prices for gypsum products — drywall being a major one — fell for the first time in three months. But as NAHB economist David Logan noted in a recent Eye on Housingblog post, remodeling projects will be the first feasible construction efforts for much of Texas and Florida. This promises to drive up demand for drywall and cause prices to climb before those of other building materials.
For example, demand for framing lumber and concrete will rise later on because larger-scale, structural rebuilding projects usually take longer to get underway.
Unfortunately, builders have become all too familiar with the recurrent price increases for softwood lumber. A brief reprieve in June was the only month thus far in 2017 in which lumber prices recorded a drop (3%). But overall, prices have increased 22% since the start of 2017.
Go to Eye On Housing to read a more detailed assessment.