Distribution of $750 million in HUD Flood Mitigation Funds

Last Chance to Comment on Distribution of $750 Million in HUD Flood-Mitigation Funds

Tuesday 2/21/23 at 5 P.M. will be your last chance to comment on Harris County’s proposed distribution of $750 million in HUD Flood-Mitigation funds.

Harris County Community Services Department (CSD) will request Commissioners Court approval of its plan for allocating $750 million in HUD Harvey mitigation funds Tuesday. (See item 489 on the Agenda.) The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has conditionally approved the preliminary plan and sent it back to Harris County for public comment.

However, the plan still consists only of a high-level outline. The county wants to split the money between itself and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) after allocating 13% for planning and administration.

CSD doesn’t intend to say exactly what areas will get how much for which projects until AFTER public comments.

Preliminary Plan Still Contains Little Detail

CSD has posted a 15-minute YouTube video that explains the process. See the screen captures below from the video.

Basically, CSD wants your comments on a high-level outline for dividing up the money. Below is what they recommend.

Less than half will go to HCFCD. AFTER approval tomorrow, the County will develop a list of projects for submission to the GLO. See last line in slide below.

CSD’s video discusses the criteria the county intends to use when developing a project list.

Input obtained prior to developing list.

It appears that Harris County wants all of the money to benefit low-to-moderate income, socially vulnerable neighborhoods…the same neighborhoods that have gotten the lion’s share of funding to date.

Sound familiar? Even though 50% of the $750 million can go to higher income areas, up to 100% could go to low-to-moderate income areas. And it looks like the county wants to go in that direction. Again.

Public Comments Close at 5 P.M. Tuesday

The only way to get your fair share is if enough members of the public demand a more even split. We don’t have enough money to finish the flood bond without spending all of the $750 million on flood mitigation. But CSD’s plan would give less than half to HCFCD.

We need the entire $750 million to fully fund the 2018 flood bond. Given the prevailing politics in Harris County these days, if any projects get cancelled for lack of funding, they will likely be those in middle- to higher-income neighborhoods.

Get Your Promised Share of the 2018 Flood Bond

So please protest any diversion of these funds away from flood mitigation.

By law, CSD must forward all comments received by Tuesday at 5 P.M. to the GLO and HUD for review.

So hurry. Email your comments NOW. It will only take five minutes.

Deadline: February 21 at 5PM.  

Email to: DRplancomments@csd.hctx.net

Below is a sample letter with key points to make. Feel free to cut-and-paste or adapt.

Sample Letter

To whom it may concern:

I strongly protest the outline that Harris County Community Services presented to the GLO for the distribution of $750 million in HUD CDBG-MIT Harvey flood-mitigation funds.

Since adoption of Harris County’s Equity Prioritization Framework, the County has been funneling 2018 Flood Bond money and other local funds to projects in high LMI and SVI areas. 

Now, however, without all of the $750 million going to flood mitigation, there likely won’t be enough money to finish all of the defined flood-bond projects that voters approved by 88% in 2018.

Therefore, I suggest:

  1. The entire $750 million should go to Harris County Flood Control District to complete unfunded flood-mitigation projects in the bond. 
  2. Earmark half that money for projects in watersheds with more affluent residents (less than 50% LMI) who have been largely ignored until now.
  3. Prioritize projects by:
    • The number of damaged structures during Harvey
    • Depth of flooding during Harvey
    • Remaining, unmitigated flood risk
    • Ability to reduce threats to infrastructure, such as bridges, schools, hospitals, and sewage treatment plants.
    • Lack of previous flood-mitigation investment in watershed
  4. The County, GLO and HUD need to be fair to all people of Harris County as HUD’s rules allow. Half of the flood-mitigation funding in Harris County since 2000 has gone to just four watersheds (Brays, Greens, White Oak, and Sims). Other areas have needs, too.
  5. CSD should present a detailed plan and stick to it. Vague generalities invite suspicion and undermine trust in government. 
  6. Ensure transparency. Harris County CSD has a poor record of transparency and website updates. Create a dashboard that publicly displays:
    • Encumbrances
    • Spending to date on every project
    • Who gets how much money, when, for what
    • Each project’s progress 
    • Monthly updates
  7. The MOD should include guarantees that the county will meet performance deadlines. Because of the 20 months already squandered since the County became aware of the $750 million, I question the county’s ability to spend the money by HUD’s deadline.

Thank you for considering these thoughts.

Don’t forget to add your contact information so Community Services can tell the General Land Office and HUD where the comment came from.

More Information

The GLO has emphasized the need for Harris County to act quickly. Flood Control has projects already defined that need money. HUD will take the money back if local authorities can’t spend the money within deadlines. So hurry. These projects take a long time. HCFCD has already defined projects in the flood bond. We can’t afford the time to start from scratch to figure out the distribution of $750 million in HUD Flood-Mitigation funds.

For more supporting information, including charts and graphs that you can use to create a custom letter, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/20/23

2001 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.