From the Housing and Community Development Department
While the effects of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation continue to reverberate throughout the city, significant help is on the way for residents who have been approved for FEMA assistance. On Dec. 13, City Council accepted an allocation of up to $424.5 million in FEMA funds for direct housing assistance and approved an interlocal agreement with the Texas General Land Office (GLO), which is administering the funds at the state level. Locally, the city’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) will play a lead role in implementing the housing assistance programs, the first of which will be FEMA’s Direct Assistance for Limited Home Repair (DALHR) program.
During Wednesday’s council session Mayor Turner stressed his desire to focus on housing needs, noting the significant shortage of resources. HCDD Director Tom McCasland echoed these sentiments and sense of urgency saying, “My team will be working through the holidays to ensure we have hammers swinging (on the home repair program) by the second week in January.”
This acceptance of funds is the first of two City Council actions required to meet the mid-January start date. The second is slated for next week, when City Council will consider a measure to appropriate funds and award contracts for single-family home rehabilitation, reconstruction and new construction services related to the DALHR program.
The DALHR program will provide permanent repairs to homes with significant damage for homeowners who applied for FEMA funding prior to the deadline. FEMA will be responsible for determining eligibility for applicants on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing homeowners who have exhausted all other forms of housing assistance. Harvey survivors without alternative housing options or cost-effective solutions will also be given preference.
With so much work to be done, there are additional programs forthcoming. FEMA’s direct temporary housing assistance program allows funding to be used for leasing and repair of multifamily properties, direct leasing of typically unavailable properties like corporate lodging, and manufactured homes and recreational vehicles. While not all of these are appropriate options for Houston, HCDD will be evaluating those that are and gearing up programs to address the city’s needs.
With more than half of the Houston population renting, their needs are an immediate topic of concern for the mayor and HCDD, both of which pledged to continue work on solutions as the DALHR program is under way.