Yesterday, the equity flap continued in Harris County Commissioners Court. Surrogates for Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis again took the podium to talk about how affluent neighborhoods deprived low-to-moderate neighborhoods of flood mitigation dollars. The argument they use: FEMA prefers buying out high dollar homes to reduce repetitive flood insurance losses.
Commissioner Ellis describes his district as 78% African-American and Hispanic, with another 6% from other minorities. And according to HUD, Precinct One contains many low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods. See below.
Harris County has four precincts; each has roughly the same number of people. In an equitable world, you would expect roughly 25% of the buyouts to be in each district. If there really is a “buyout bias” against low income neighborhoods, you would expect Precinct 1 to have less than 25%. But it doesn’t.
Precinct 1 Gets More Than Its Fair Share of Buyouts
Under the Freedom of Information Act, I requested the number of buyouts in Precinct 1 and other precincts since 2000. Once again, hard data contradicts the self-serving myth. Since 2000, when buyouts began in Precinct 1, HCFCD bought 955 homes in Precinct 1 and 2,413 homes in other precincts.
So where’s the discrimination in buyouts?
HCFCD is buying out homes faster than ever. To learn more about their process, visit this page. With FEMA funds from Harvey, HCFCD hopes to buy out 1,100 homes in the next few years. By comparison, the District bought out only 2,075 homes in the 32 years before Harvey.
Precinct 1 Gets More Than Its Fair Share of HCFCD Construction
In part one of this series, we learned that Precinct One gets the lion’s share of Harris County Flood Control District construction spending for flood mitigation.
Precinct 1 Gets More Than Its Fair Share of Federal Benefits
In part 2 of this series, we also learned that five of the six active federally-funded flood mitigation construction projects in Harris County are on bayous that flow through Precinct One. No other precinct comes close to receiving that kind of support. That means Precinct One receives more benefits from federally funded flood mitigation projects than any other Precinct in Harris County.
If Commissioner Ellis or his surrogates have any data to back up their claims of discrimination in flood mitigation spending, they should share it. In every commissioners court meeting they spout the same half truths to bolster their share of flood mitigation dollars. So far, it appears to be working quite well for them. And not so well for residents in other precincts.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/26/2019
666 Days since Hurricane Harvey