George P. Bush, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office (GLO), announced a 30-day extension of a deadline for renegotiating its contract with the City of Houston for a variety of Harvey Recovery Programs. The new contract would let the City keep some of the programs it had been working on while returning others to the GLO.
By tag-teaming remaining work, GLO hopes to expend all available funds before HUD pulls back unspent money out of the $1.3 billion it allocated for aid within the City.
Origin of Conflict Affecting Aid Recipients
Houston and GLO have fought for months over the speed of the City’s handling of aid applications.
- GLO worries about the slow rate of City’s progress and whether the City can meet HUD deadlines.
- The City, on the other hand, keeps insisting it is about to speed up as it falls farther behind.
When HUD attempted to pull the programs away from the City, the City filed a lawsuit to prevent that. At stake: millions in management fees for the City and hundreds of millions in aid for Harvey victims.
Last month, Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin hinted that changes could be in the wind, but refused to release details until HUD and the GLO approved them.
Homeowners Worry About Cloud Over Programs
Meanwhile the cloud hanging over the programs worries thousands of homeowners who:
- Qualified for aid but were not invited to submit an application
- Have not been notified of their application’s status
- Can’t get phone calls or emails returned from the City.
As of November 3, 2020, the City reports $776 million in available funds not yet committed for projects.
Only 82 Reimbursement Checks Written Since Harvey
Three years after Harvey, the City reports it has issued only 82 reimbursement checks to homeowners for a total of $1.4 million. Either that number has not changed or the City has not updated it since October 23rd when I last posted on this subject. Neither has City updated the number of applications in its “pipeline” since August 31, 2020.
Statement from GLO Commissioner Bush
Commissioner Bush said: “The GLO has preliminarily agreed on the framework of an agreement with the City of Houston in the effort to help Houstonians recover from the worst natural disaster in our state’s history. The GLO has agreed to extend the current deadline for termination of the existing contract to better facilitate completion of this new agreement.”
Bush added, “The GLO’s focus continues to be making significant progress in putting federal dollars to work for the people of Houston. The GLO remains committed to helping Houston residents who are still in need of assistance with repair or reconstruction as well as moving other programs forward to successful completion within HUD’s mandatory timeline.”
GLO Still Taking Applications for Homeowner Assistance Program
In the meantime, the GLO will continue to operate the Homeowner Assistance Program to rebuild single family homes for Houston homeowners still needing assistance related to damage from Hurricane Harvey. Houston homeowners with a remaining Hurricane Harvey Housing need may find more information and apply at recovery.texas.gov/hap/houston.
GLO established the site above to help Harvey victims who have not yet submitted applications. Those who previously submitted applications which have become lost in space should call the numbers listed on the GLO site to determine their best course of action.
Note: the extension above affects contract negotiations between the City and GLO. It does not affect program deadlines.
Full Text of Interim Operations Agreement Between City, GLO
Neither Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, nor Mayor Pro Tem Martin, has yet released a statement on this subject. But ReduceFlooding.com has obtained a copy of the interim operations agreement signed by Mayor Turner and Deputy Land Commissioner Mark A. Havens. This determines how both sides will move forward in the next month.
Overview: Who’s Doing What in Next Month
During the Extension Period which ends on December 6, 2020, the GLO will let the City continue administering funds under the:
- Homeowner Assistance Program on applications approved by the GLO on or before October 6, 2020
- Multifamily Rental Program and Public Service Program for projects approved on or before October 6, 2020
During the Extension Period, the GLO will also let the City:
- Operate the Homebuyer Assistance Program
- Spend project delivery funds under the Single-Family Development Program, Small Rental Program, Buyout Program, and Economic Revitalization Program.
- Use $15 million for Administration
Other Terms of Interim Agreement
As part of the settlement, the City must:
- Provide the GLO with copies of all program information in its possession including applicant data and project files.
- Dismiss its lawsuit with prejudice, including all related appeals.
Dismissing a lawsuit with prejudice would forbid the City from refiling its suit in the future. For other terms and conditions, see the full text of the proposed agreement.
Posted by Bob Rehak on November 3, 2020
1163 Days after Hurricane Harvey