Tag Archive for: homeowner assistance

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.

Graphic on City’s Recovery Transparency Page.

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.

Why You Need Flood Insurance: Houston’s Long-Shot Harvey Reimbursement Program

The City of Houston’s latest pipeline report shows that as of the start of this year, Housing and Community Development’s Harvey Recovery Program had sent reimbursement checks to 150 homeowners out of 96,410 homes flooded during Harvey (see page 15). Quite the long shot! More than 1 in 600!

Homeowner Assistance Program data reported in City’s January Pipeline Report. Note total of reimbursement checks sent.

Program Ended More than Year Ago; Some Claims Still Being Processed

The City’s Reimbursement Program ended on December 31, 2020. At that time, the City had only reimbursed 119 families for repairs they made themselves. Claims still in the pipeline at that time explain the difference between 119 and 150.

One lucky Lake-Houston-Area homeowner recently emailed me saying his family had just cashed a reimbursement check – 4.5 years after Harvey. They won their THIRD appeal!

Reimbursements Not Only Form of Assistance

To be fair, The City offers more forms of assistance than reimbursements. The City also has rehab and reconstruction programs; homebuyer programs; a multi-family program targeted at developers and more (see below). Also keep in mind that this department underwent a major reorganization last year and now has new leadership.

Houston’s HCDD Harvey Recovery home page on Jan. 4, 2022. City has not updated it for 6 weeks. Screen capture above from 2/15/22.

However, the City still has a long way to go with financial transparency. Why, for instance, are subtotals not reported in the first screen capture above for recons, rehabs and reimbursements?

Flood Insurance Your Best Bet Next Time

The long-shot odds, lengthy application processing, bureaucratic delays and uncertain outcomes all underscore the need for flood insurance. Get a flood insurance contract in place before the next big storm and store it in a safe deposit box on HIGH GROUND. Don’t wait for help that will likely never come after the storm. Remember, ordinary homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/15/2022

1631 Days after Hurricane Harvey

GLO Extends Deadline for Harvey Homeowner Assistance Applications

The original deadline for Hurricane Harvey Homeowner Assistance applications has been extended from this Friday to New Year’s Eve at 5 P.M. Applications do not have to be completed by then, just started by then. So if you still hope to receive aid, move quickly. Money is running out and eligible applications will be prioritized based on who applied first.

The process involves a large number of documents and complex rules that govern eligibility. Here is the full text of this morning’s press release from the GLO. It includes information on where to apply.

What remained of a home washed downstream during Harvey. Photo by Dan Monks.

AUSTIN — The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has extended the deadline to submit applications for the Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP) to 5 p.m. Dec. 31, 2021. All potential applicants must submit draft applications by the deadline to be considered for eligibility so long as funding is available.

We encourage the community to remember that applications do not need to be fully complete to be submitted. Once application intake concludes, additional program resources will be dedicated to processing applicants for eligibility, through the permitting process and into construction. Applications can be submitted even if documentation is missing as HAP applicant coordinators continue to help applicants who are missing documentation.

The HAP regional offices will remain open, and processing of applications will continue indefinitely until program funds are fully expended. Applications will be considered for award on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the priorities outlined in the Regional Housing Guidelines.

Submitting a complete application does not guarantee eligibility nor funding availability, but applicants must submit a complete application by the deadline to be potentially considered for assistance.

Those residing inside the Houston city limits should apply at recovery.texas.gov/hap/houston, while non-Houston residents of Harris County should apply at recovery.texas.gov/hap/harriscounty. New applicants can also call the toll-free intake center line at 1-866-317-1998.

Harris County and the City of Houston received direct allocations of funding for residents in their jurisdictions. Applicants who previously applied to and are receiving assistance from Harris County and the City of Houston directly should continue to work with their program representatives.

In the City of Houston, applications being processed for eligibility already outnumber available funds, but funds remain available in non-Houston Harris County areas. HAP continues to take waitlist applications in Houston in case additional funding becomes available.

Waitlisted applications will be reviewed for eligibility in the order received based on their submission date, should additional funding be approved. Applications that are started, but not yet submitted by 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2021, cannot be considered for assistance.

Thus far, in all 49 counties eligible for Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the GLO has approved nearly 6,900 applications for construction, with about 850 homes currently under construction and more than 4,000 completed with keys in the hands of homeowners.

The GLO continues processing completed applications with the expectation of rebuilding up to 10,000 homes total for those needing assistance with available funds, with approximately 3,000 of those homes expected to be rebuilt in Harris County and the City of Houston.

Individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey may qualify for assistance through the Homeowner Assistance Program if:

  • They owned their home
  • It was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey
  • It was their primary residence at the time of the storm
  • Other eligibility factors also apply.

The program offers qualified homeowners assistance to repair, rehabilitate or rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Potential applicants should review the Homeowner Assistance Program Checklist to have all applicable documents ready prior to applying.

Interested homeowners can visit recovery.texas.gov/hap/houston or recovery.texas.gov/hap/harriscounty to find more information.

– End of Release –

For More Information About Homeowner Assistance Applications

The GLO’s main Homeowner Assistance Program website – https://recovery.texas.gov/hap – also provides links to these important documents:

Applications, including all necessary documentation, must be completed and submitted BEFORE the GLO and its partners will begin processing it for eligibility. Each application submitted must be individually evaluated to determine eligibility. If applicants or potential applicants have questions, please contact 346-222-4686 or 1-866-317-1998 (toll free).

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/15/2021 based on a Texas GLO press release.

1539 Days since Hurricane Harvey

GLO Announces Homeowner Assistance, Reimbursement Programs for Imelda

The Texas General Land Office will begin taking applications this Saturday, April 24, for Imelda assistance. $71,604,000 is available for Chambers, Harris, Liberty, Jefferson, Montgomery, Orange and San Jacinto Counties.

.Land Commissioner George P. Bush has announced locations of regional Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs (HARP) offices in advance of the 24th. 

Applicants will be able to schedule an appointment in person in advance for the same day that applications will be available online.

Money Can Be Used For…

The money will cover repair or reconstruction of owner-occupied single-family homes and reimbursement up to $50,000 for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred for reconstruction, rehabilitation, or mitigation.

Repayment of SBA loans is also eligible for reimbursement.

Car submerged during Imelda in Elm Grove. Photo courtesy of Allyssa Harris.

Appointments Required for In-Person Assistance

“Thousands of homes in Southeast Texas were damaged during during Imelda, devastating the livelihoods of countless Texans,” said Commissioner Bush. “In advance of the Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs application being released, the GLO is announcing locations of offices to provide residents with help applying for assistance.

Evacuation from Elm Grove during Imelda. Photo courtesy of Keith Stewart.

Where to Get Help

All applicants must make an appointment before visiting an office location.

Appointments will ensure proper capacity under COVID-19 restrictions. Applicants may request additional hours.

Harris County
Location: St. Mark’s United Methodist Church
3811 N Main St, Baytown, TX 77521-3305 

Montgomery County
Location: North Montgomery County Community Center
600 Gerald St, Willis, TX 77378-3477 

Chambers County
Location: Chambers County Municipal Building
211 Broadway, Winnie, TX 77665-7781 

San Jacinto County
Location: Coldspring Area Public Library
14221 State Hwy 150 West, Coldspring, TX 77331 

Jefferson County
Location: First City Building 505 Orleans Street, Beaumont, TX 77701
Hours: By appointment only: Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
By appointment only: Saturday 8:00am – 12:00pm         

Orange County
Location: Orange County Convention and Expo Center
11475 FM 1442, Orange, TX 77630-5227 

Pop-up Intake Locations
Hours: All by appointment only
Phone Number: 844-484-4277 (844-484-HARP)     

Main Regional Office:
Phone Number: 844-484-4277 (844-484-HARP) 

Liberty County residents are eligible. An office in Liberty County may be announced in the future. For now, work through the main regional office above (in Beaumont).

Online, Email, Phone Assistance

Interested homeowners may also visit http://recovery.texas.gov/harp to apply online or download a printable version of the application.

Additionally, applicants may email the GLO at cdr@recovery.texas.gov or call 1-844-893-8937 to get help applying.” Up to date office locations and additional information are available at http://recovery.texas.gov/harp

Before You Apply, Understand These Things

A single application can be submitted for reimbursement AND repair assistance.

However, an application must be submitted along WITH required documents for consideration.

HARP is “first-come, first-served,” and all homeowners are encouraged to apply immediately.

Households applying for reimbursement that do not meet the low-to moderate-income (LMI) threshold will be processed after the first six months from application opening, but may receive construction assistance prior to then, based on their application date.

HARP is only available for the homeowner’s primary residence.  

Documents You Need Before Applying

Potential applicants should review the Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs Checklist to have all applicable documents ready prior to applying.

Potential applicants can also find in-person assistance at regional HARP offices serving their area. In addition to a main office in each region, each county will have at least one application drop off location or satellite office. Additional satellite offices and application intake locations may be announced in the future and will be viewable at http://recovery.texas.gov/harp.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/21/21 based on information provided by the Texas General Land Office

1331 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 580 since Imelda

GLO Reimbursement Program Helped Rebuild 2961 Homes While Houston’s Helped Only 119

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) announced last week that it has successfully completed its Reimbursement Program from Hurricane Harvey. It was a first-of-its-kind program and concluded after providing nearly $86 million to almost 3,000 Texas homeowners. The GLO also announced that it had reconstructed its 2,500th home under its Harvey Homeowner Assistance Program.

Two Major Milestones Reached in Same Week

The two GLO disaster recovery programs are helping Texans across 48 counties (outside of Harris County and the city of Houston) whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. The two programs have now helped nearly 5,500 Texas homeowners recover from Harvey.

The GLO’s reimbursement program concluded after assisting 2,961 Texans with a total of $85,989,042 in reimbursements for out-of-pocket home repair expenses. In the same week, the GLO reached another milestone – reconstruction of 2,500 homes damaged during Harvey.

Texas General Land Office

“Every day at the General Land Office we work to help improve the lives of Texans,” said Commissioner Bush. “The GLO is proud to be setting a record pace in disaster recovery while helping thousands of Texas families rebuild their lives and their homes. The GLO continues to leverage federal dollars efficiently and effectively to help Texas families and communities rebuild and mitigate against future storms.”

Click for video

Details of Reimbursement Program

This week the Texas General Land Office completed its Homeowner Reimbursement Program (HRP) when it approved the final reimbursements for eligible homeowners.

The HRP program provided reimbursements up to $50,000 for Hurricane Harvey-impacted homeowners who used their life savings or other personal funds to pay out-of-pocket for disaster recovery repairs. The program’s efficiency yielded an additional $3 million in costs savings, which enabled the program to provide reimbursements for all applicants eligible under U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rules for the available Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding.

Homeowner Assistance Program Details

In the same week that the GLO successfully completed its Reimbursement Program, the GLO handed keys to a fully rebuilt home to the 2,500th Homeowner Assistance Program (HOAP) recipient. So far, approximately 4,300 HOAP applicants have been approved for assistance by the GLO. Of those, about 1,400 applications are in pre-construction (awaiting applicant approval of final design plans and permits). Four hundred more homes are currently under construction in addition to those already completed.

Before the HOAP program concludes, GLO anticipates that it will help rebuild more than 6,000 homes. It will do so using more than $1.3 billion in available Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). The GLO will also use an additional $500 million in Community Development Block Grants for Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Results Invite Comparison to City of Houston’s

The City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department updates its comparable statistics weekly.

City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department statistics as of 1.20.21

During the period that the GLO reimbursed 2961 homeowners, Houston reimbursed 119. And while the GLO reconstructed 2500 homes, the City reconstructed only 117.

Thus, the GLO was 20-25X more effective in finding and helping applicants than the City of Houston. And the GLO covered a 48-county area.

Possible Reasons for Huge Disparity

The GLO reviews City applications before forwarding them to HUD for final approval and funding. In trying to explain possible reasons for the disparity in results, a GLO spokesperson pointed to the needlessly complex structure of the City’s program.

The GLO also pointed out that many of the applications submitted by the City were incomplete and that the City’s data formatting was inconsistent.

When the GLO sent a team to Houston to help train City employees handling applications, GLO helpers were not allowed to enter City offices.

Harvey damaged more than 96,000 homes in Houston.

The City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department still has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/24/2021 based on data published by the Texas GLO and Houston Housing and Community Development

1244 Days after Hurricane Harvey

City of Houston Couldn’t Even Give Away Harvey Aid Due to Bureaucratic Bungling

As a December 31st deadline expired, approximately $162 million – allocated by HUD to reimburse homeowners in the City of Houston for repairs they made after Harvey – remained unused. The City had worked on the reimbursement program for TWO years. Yet in all that time, the City’s Department of Housing and Community Development successfully processed only 120 applications for reimbursement of repairs. Grants awarded to those 120 families totaled a mere $2,024,000 out of the $164 million allocated – just 1.2% of available funds.

Desperate Families Needlessly Left Empty Handed

Meanwhile, flooded families:

  • Never received applications, despite repeated calls and emails from potential applicants
  • Received an application only hours before the deadline expired on the New Year’s weekend
  • Received incomplete and misleading information.

Regarding the last point, an email sent to residents at the 11th hour failed to inform them that they just needed to start the application and sign it before January 1st. Instead, residents were told that they needed to complete the application before December 31 (i.e., before the end of the day on December 30).

A two-step application process, engineered by the City, complicated and delayed aid. Residents first had to fill out a survey to qualify to fill out an application. The City then tried to sort the survey respondents into priority groups. This increased the workload, created management complexity, and delayed the filing of formal applications for years while the deadline passed.

Had everyone just been invited to fill out an application early on, no one would have missed the deadline.

Help From GLO Refused

Worse yet, after missing one interim deadline after another, the City refused to let the Texas General Land Office (GLO) help. The GLO oversees HUD funds distributed in Texas. It had sent a team to Houston to help train City employees. However, the City refused to allow the GLO team into the Housing and Community Development offices.

As the final deadline loomed, it became apparent that the City wasn’t coming close to meeting its performance goals and that aid would not reach people who needed it. As a last resort to help flood victims, the GLO tried to terminate its contract with the City and take over the City’s Harvey-aid program. But the City sued the GLO to prevent the takeover. That cost even more precious time.

Before the final deadline, the GLO notified the City that it should alert all potential applicants and the media so that they, in turn, could spread the word about the impending deadline. The GLO even provided a sample press release that the City could tweak for local media. Instead, the City posted a notice on Twitter and social media. That severely limited the reach of the message.

Confusion Reigned

To this day, lawsuit settlement talks between the City and GLO continue. Meanwhile, the GLO provided the City of Houston with funds for the Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP), which included its reimbursement program.

But according to Jennifer Coulter, a would-be applicant who called the City, the City swore the GLO had taken control. The resident then called the GLO. GLO correctly said, “No, the City has it.” The back-and-forth continued until she was told the deadline passed.

The Coulter family lived in a trailer in their driveway for almost two years as they repaired their home.

Resident Chris Johnsen flooded 4 feet during Harvey. After waiting 3.5 years for help, he received an email from Housing and Community Development minutes before the close of business on December 30. It erroneously told him he needed to complete and sign the application before December 31.

He was out of town when the application arrived at 4:08 PM on December 30th, but submitted it after he returned. The City rejected his application. When he complained, the City told him, “Unfortunately we are not able to accept the application because it is past the deadline of 12/31/2020.”

Adding Insult to Injury

Being flooded during Harvey and financially devastated during reconstruction were bad enough. But being denied aid through the City’s bureaucratic bungling added insult to injury. Ironically, the City requested and received a nearly $30 million increase in the amount of aid available for reimbursements part way through the program…and didn’t make a dent in it. The amount increased from $135,691,299 to $164,117,633.

Meanwhile, people are moving on with their lives and giving up. But maybe that’s the City’s intention.

The Big Question: Why?

The Department of Housing and Community Development’s avowed goal with Harvey relief is to focus on those “most in need and most at risk.” People who can afford to repair their own homes and then seek reimbursement generally do not fall into that category. By law, at least 70% of HUD reimbursement funds must go to LMI (low-to-moderate income) households.

However, the 70% requirement does not apply to each individual program within Houston’s total aid allocation. It’s an average requirement across all programs. So the entire $164 million allocated for reimbursements could have gone to non-LMI households without jeopardizing the City’s LMI requirement.

This has all the hallmarks of a conscious decision to limit reimbursement aid after requesting more. Why?

One observer suggested that spending less on reimbursements will let the City funnel those funds into multifamily housing instead.

Death of Hope

96,410 homes flooded in Houston during Harvey (see page 15) and could theoretically have been eligible for reimbursements. But only 120 received reimbursement checks by the end of 2020 – again, about 1.2%. See below.

In contrast, the GLO started its own reimbursement program (for the 48 counties in which it is administering the program) on February 28, 2019, and has already completed the program with nearly 3,000 reimbursements approved for more than $85 million.

This brings to a sad, sorry end one of the darkest chapters in Houston’s history. The end of the program means the death of hope for families desperate for assistance. Many cashed in retirement savings and their children’s college funds to rebuild their homes after Harvey.

The City claims hundreds of additional families filed applications before the end of the year for reimbursements. But the GLO has not yet confirmed those.

The City is allowed to process applications received before January 1. But the City can no longer accept applications.

Reimbursements: A Small Part of a Much Bigger Problem

On January 4, the City updated its HUD-compliance website. It showed that out of approximately $1.28 billion dollars that HUD set aside for City of Houston residents, the City still had not submitted applications for almost $800 million dollars (62.5% of the total). Said another way, the City could not achieve almost two thirds of its aid-distribution goals in two years.

The City has not returned calls, texts and emails from ReduceFlooding.com requesting comment and the City’s perspective.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/13/2021

1233 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Disaster Recovery Disaster: Part 1

After Harvey, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) made $1.3 billion in disaster recovery funds available for housing assistance to the City of Houston through the Texas General Land Office (GLO). The City kicked off several disaster recovery programs with great fanfare in January of 2019. However, in almost two years, the City has only helped 1.4% of eligible applicants for assistance and an estimated 0.5% of those who flooded without insurance. The second figure includes flooded homeowners who could have applied, but didn’t.

City of Houston Housing and Community Development on January 14, 2019. Mayor Turner said, “Thousands of Houstonians who were affected by Hurricane Harvey have been waiting for this day.” Most are still waiting.

Programs Announced in January 2019 Quickly Fall Behind Schedule

The programs were primarily designed to repair and reconstruct single- and multi-family homes, and to reimburse owners for repairs they made. However, almost from the outset, the program failed to reach its own goals and has fallen progressively farther behind.

A HUD audit in November of 2019 panned the City for failure to staff the program adequately. It also expressed concerns about the City’s lack of transparency, not posting plan documents online, not bidding contracts competitively, failure to follow HUD rules, and failure to meet objectives.

GLO Attempts to Help Rebuffed by City

The GLO, which is responsible for overseeing the program and ultimately for the money itself, sent a “strike force” to assist the City, train employees and get the programs back on track. However, the Director of the City’s Housing and Community Development Department, which conducts these programs, told the GLO’s strike team they were not welcome and told them to leave the Department’s office, according to Brittany Eck, a GLO spokesperson.

As the City fell further behind schedule in 2020, the GLO tried to take over some of the programs. Eck says GLO wanted to help the City focus on those where it had more success. However, the City also rebuffed those efforts. The City filed a lawsuit to prevent the GLO from taking back the programs. Ultimately, HUD stepped in and approved an “Action Plan Amendment” that resulted in cancelation of the City’s contract.

The City still pushed back. The Mayor claimed the program was on track to achieve its objectives, despite a rapidly approaching December 31, 2020 deadline for the reimbursement program.

Other programs for reconstruction, repair and rehab expire in 2024. But it takes time to design, permit, bid and construct homes. And it takes even more time to get approvals through the City, GLO and HUD. So…

According to the GLO, even the 2024 deadline is in jeopardy at this time.

Reimbursement Program May Come Back to City

The GLO reportedly may give the reimbursement program back to the City. With only two months left before the deadline, GLO doesn’t have time to get program changes approved through HUD, transfer files, and still reimburse flood victims who paid out of pocket for reconstruction.

But it’s unclear whether the City will commit to meeting all of the GLO’s performance benchmarks and deadlines. No one at the City will comment publicly. Eck said no commitments had yet been made, but might come as early as the end of today.

Reasons for Clawback of Some Programs

We’ve all heard the news reports about the City’s performance or lack thereof. But aside from the small number of homes completed, reports don’t go into much detail. Eck, the GLO’s spokesperson, spent hours explaining the complexities behind published numbers.

First, let me say, it’s difficult to compare the State’s numbers with the City’s. The two entities refer to programs differently. And they sometimes reflect different time periods or different stages of completion.

Plus, the City generally reports numbers for itself that are higher than the GLO’s numbers for the City. However, the differences are so small in the grand scheme of things that they get lost in rounding. So to eliminate charges of political bias, I have simply accepted the City’s numbers in almost all cases for the analysis below, except where the City does not supply numbers.

High-Level Findings

The deeper you dig, the more several things become clear:

Let’s address the first point and cover the others in later posts.

Application Process Started with Pre-qualification Survey

First, you need to understand the two-step application process. First, the City conducted a survey to screen applicants. Second, those who appeared to qualify were invited to apply for aid.

21,156 households took the survey. Of those, the City estimated 16,651 qualified for some kind of aid. See the screen capture below taken from the City’s website.

Many Still Waiting for Invite to Submit Application

Many families who qualified are still waiting to be invited to submit an application. The last “situation and pipeline” report posted on the City’s website shows 6,541 households “Pending invitation” as of 8/31/2020 (see page 6).

City’s Self-Reported Results

The City claims that it reimbursed 82 households a total of $1.455 million. That works out to $18,903 per household. Neither the total nor the household numbers seem large for a program almost 2 years old and a disaster as large as Harvey. $1.5 million is less than a third of the $5 million that the City is paying vendor ICF for “Outreach , Intake and Case Management Services.”

On the right side of the diagram above, the City also says that it sent out “Notices to Proceed with Construction” for another 149 homeowners. Those notices covered almost another $32 million. Those average $214,765 per household. But construction has not yet finished on all of those.

How Grants to Date Compare With Need

Here’s a link to Harris County Flood Control’s final report on Hurricane Harvey. On Page 13, it says:

  • 154,170 homes flooded in the county
  • 64% did not have flood insurance
  • So that’s roughly 100,000 homes without flood insurance (a major qualification for HUD grants). 

The City has half the population of the county. So, let’s assume that approximately 50,000 households flooded in the City that could have theoretically applied for assistance. But according to the City graphic above, only 21,000 households took the survey. And the City says 16,651 of those were eligible (about a third of flooded homes without insurance). 

But regardless, if you accept the City numbers, they have helped 231 families so far (82 + 149) out of 16,651 eligible survey respondents. And that doesn’t even include another 30,000 families that didn’t take the survey!

So, in almost two years, the City has only helped 1.4% of eligible survey respondents. And roughly 0.5% of those who flooded without insurance.

Calculated from data supplied by City of Houston and Harris County Flood Control District

$800 Million in Disaster Relief Remains Uncommitted At This Point

When you add in the number of projects in the pipeline (identified and under contract), the percentages look somewhat better. However, that cannot obscure the fact that the reimbursement program will expire in two months, and almost $800 million remains uncommitted (see circle diagram below). Now the City did not allocate all of that for reimbursing people who fixed their own homes. But they did allocate more than $400 million for homeowner assistance (see table on right below).

This PDF shows a summary status report dated 10/15/2020. It provides additional insight into the various types of programs on the right.

City Has Awarded Less than 10% of Projections It Made 16 Months Ago

HUD approved the GLO’s third-amended state-action plan on June 13, 2019.

By the City’s own projections at the time, it should have expended $261 million by now ($1.275 billion minus $1.014 billion). However, the GLO says the City has only drawn down $24.6 million, according to Eck. That’s less than 10% of the projection the City made 16 months ago.


The GLO says that the City has pushed deadlines back month after month, always using the excuse that they’re right on the cusp of turning over a large number of applications for approval.

Future Aid At Stake

Sources familiar with how HUD works indicate that non-performance on this contract could jeopardize future HUD aid to the City.

Meanwhile, I know one applicant for reimbursement who completed the City’s survey the very first day it was available. Her application still has not been processed. But, she says, the City hopes to work on it soon! That’s better than the 6,541 people still waiting for the City to invite them to submit an application.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/23/2020

1151 Days after 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.

How and Where to Seek Disaster Recovery Help from Hurricane Harvey

The State of Texas has received multiple appropriations from Congress and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for long-term disaster recovery from Hurricane Harvey. But figuring out where and how to apply for help can be tricky. It depends on where you live.

The General Land Office (GLO) runs the Homeowner Assistance Program throughout the state with the exception of the City of Houston and Harris County. Both have their own programs. If you live outside the City or Harris County, review the types of assistance available immediately below. Links to City and County programs are further below.

Warning: some of these programs are still in development. HUD approved the City and County programs only last December. Another warning: the State is still administering programs, such as Economic Revitalization, that the City and County may not have implemented yet. Things change daily, so consider the information below a starting point.

Townhomes in Forest Cove on Marina Drive destroyed by Hurricane Harvey

For Those Outside Houston or Harris County…

  • Homeowner Assistance Program: Provides funding for rehabilitation and reconstruction of owner-occupied single-family homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Local Buyout and Acquisition Program: Local governments may buyout or acquire eligible homes at a pre-storm or post-storm fair market value to move homeowners out of harm’s way outside of a floodplain to a lower-risk area.
  • Homeowner Reimbursement Program: Allows homeowners to be reimbursed for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred for repairs to their home including reconstruction, rehabilitation or mitigation up to $50,000.
  • Affordable Rental Program: Provides funding for rehabilitation, reconstruction and new construction of affordable multi-family housing units in areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Economic Revitalization Program: Allows for interim assistance to small businesses (up to $250,000) impacted by Hurricane Harvey through deferred forgivable loans in exchange for job creation or retention for low-to-moderate income employees. Small business within Harris County and the city of Houston will be eligible to apply for this program.

For Those Inside City of Houston…

If you live inside the City of Houston, you may qualify under one of these programs.

Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP)

HoAP is the primary program to help homeowners whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Harvey. There are five options within HoAP to assist homeowners at different stages of recovery and with specific recovery needs. The first step in getting help is to take the Harvey Recovery Survey to assess if there are programs you may qualify or and to help identify what documents you will need before you make a formal application.

 Get started with homeowner recovery

Harvey Homebuyer Assistance Program

The Harvey Homebuyer Assistance Program (HBAP) provides up to $30,000 through a forgivable, interest-free loan for down-payment and/or close-cost assistance to qualified homebuyers. The program serves Houstonians earning up to 120% of Area Median Income (AMI). The City places a sale-restricted lien on the home for five years to ensure that the program is meetings its affordability objectives.

Harvey Single-Family Development Program

The Harvey Single-Family Development (HSFD) Program builds new single-family homes for low- and moderate-income Houstonians. These homes typically sell for under $200,000 to eligible buyers. The City places a sale-restricted lien on properties for sale to income-qualified buyers to ensure that the home remains affordable for a specified period.

 Get started with recovery for homebuyers

Harvey Multifamily Program

As a majority-renter city, Houston needs more quality, affordable rental housing after Hurricane Harvey. As demand for housing continues to rise, workers may not be able to afford homes in areas that are safe from flooding and close to jobs and transit. Ensuring Houston’s continued economic growth depends on having transit-connected, resilient, and affordable housing options for people at all income levels. The Multifamily Program provides funding to repair existing and develop new multifamily homes across Houston. Developers will be able to apply for funding through a subrecipient selection process.

Harvey Recovery Small Rental Program

Many Houstonians live in single-family rental properties, or rental properties with fewer than eight units. These small rental properties are important for affordable housing, and many were damaged during Hurricane Harvey. The Harvey Recovery Small Rental Program assists landlords to make repairs and improve the quality of these properties.

 Get started with recovery for landlords

Harvey Public Services Program

Service provider agencies help HCDD implement important programs, including support for people experiencing homelessness, those living with HIV/AIDS, and mental health services. Agencies can apply for funding through this program through a subrecipient selection process.

Buyout Program

This program is intended to assist residents to move out of areas that have been impacted by multiple disasters or are at high risk of flooding from future disasters. The program is currently under development. City of Houston residents interested in a buyout option should visit the Harris County Control District’s Voluntary Home Buyout Program website.

City of Houston Contact Info

City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department

For Those in Harris County, but Outside Houston…

If you life outside Houston, but inside Harris County, start here.

Harris County Contact Info

In Summary

These represent starting points. If you were damaged during Harvey and need help recovering, explore these links. They may help. Each has a screening survey to make sure you qualify. Start there. Good luck.

Posted on January 20, 2019 by Bob Rehak

509 Days After Hurricane Harvey