Harvey Homebuyer Assistance in Lake Houston Area

City’s Harvey Recovery Map Shows Lake Houston Area Has Received Little Assistance

Five years after Hurricane Harvey, the City of Houston’s Harvey Recovery Map shows that in the Lake Houston Area less than 100 families have received some form of financial assistance. That’s out of 16,000 homes and 3,300 businesses that flooded in the Lake Houston Area during Harvey.

Dots represent families receiving homebuyer assistance in Kingwood and Huffman. Clicking different layers of the map reveals statistics for different programs.

Breakdown by Program

To be more precise, the map shows:

  • 9 families in Kingwood and 1 in Huffman received homebuyer assistance
  • 78 families in Kingwood and 5 in Huffman received homeowner assistance for repairs or reconstruction
  • The City has yet to report any statistics for its Economic Recovery Program for Small Businesses

A second “disaster impact” map shows that in four Kingwood Census tracts, Harvey damaged more than 70% of the homes. The percent damaged exceeded 90% in two of those.

The Houston Housing and Community Development Department’s (HCDD) Hurricane Harvey Recovery Program still has hundreds of millions of dollars left to distribute. But with the exception of the City’s Multifamily Program, most other programs continue to stutter and stumble.

Citywide Statistics Not Much Better

Of the 96,410 homes flooded in Houston during Harvey, the City has submitted 1,426 single-family files to the GLO and received approval for 1,244 (789 for repair or reimbursement, and 455 for home buying assistance). The number approved equals 1.3% of homes damaged or destroyed.

The City announced a $30 million economic development program for small businesses one year ago. But no progress reports appear on the City’s compliance website. However, the City is still accepting applications until December 31st of this year. The amount of money in the program could help up to 200 small businesses citywide. In the Lake Houston Area alone, Harvey damaged 16 times more than that. The Houston Business Journal says Houston has more than 100,000 small businesses.

Multifamily Only Bright Spot

Multifamily housing assistance is the one bright spot for HHCD. Out of the $450 million allocated to the program, the City has already spent or committed $355 million as of August 8, 2022. Seven projects have completed construction. Sixteen are under construction. Two are pending closing. And six are being underwritten.

Multifamily stats as of 8/8/22

Why the success for this one program? Corporations build multifamily complexes. Most of them can afford to hire people who pursue funding opportunities like this full time. They aren’t trying to get bids, track receipts and hold down regular jobs while repairing their homes from a disaster in their spare time.

Most of the feedback I have received is that flood victims without flood insurance who were living in travel trailers or with friends after Harvey took one of two paths. They paid for repairs out of pocket as they could afford them, or sold their homes “as is.”

Disaster relief money came too late. It had too many strings attached. And the application process was too cumbersome. Finally, the Housing and Community Development Department was too disorganized. So, I suspect the numbers will change little at this point.

Plus, the Homebuyer Assistance program has exhausted its funding and is closed. A red note at the top of the homepage of Recovery.HustonTX.gov says, “Due to … a pending decision on whether the City must return money that should go toward these critical programs and resources, we are no longer processing applications.” If more funding becomes available, those who previously applied will not be given preference.

A second red note says, “At this time, the City of Houston will continue assisting homeowners whose repairs and reconstructions were approved by the GLO prior to October 6, 2020. All other repair and reconstruction applications, including those approved after October 6, 2020, will be transferred to the GLO to complete the process.”

A final note says, “We appreciate your patience.”

Anything to Help Citizens

The good news: “The City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department is excited to announce beginning August 21st, we will be hosting open community office hours!” Every Wednesday, 1-4PM. “Walk-ins welcome, no appointment required!” If you still wish to apply.

Whoop-de-doo! Three hours a week! Five years after Harvey! Buried on a page that no one except reporters would take the time to find (at the bottom of the Transparency Page under the About Page). That’s really going above and beyond the call of duty to help citizens.

One can only wonder whether four hours a week – or putting the open-house notice on the home page – would help Houston recover faster.

Only one thing is certain: flood insurance beats the hope of disaster relief assistance.

To review the City’s July 2022 pipeline report that shows progress to date in several programs by stages, click here.

To review the compliance graphics for the City’s programs, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/14/22

1811 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.