Representative Murphy Offers Comments on the City of Houston Local Action Plan
The forthcoming allocation of CDBG-DR funds to the City of Houston for local administration represents a unique opportunity to provide targeted, locally-controlled disaster relief to residents of our city. You and I have both seen firsthand the ongoing efforts of Houstonians to recover from this storm and this first round of funding is an important step towards long-term recovery. Please consider the following suggestions as they relate to the City of Houston’s local action plan for administration of these funds.
With the City of Houston’s local action plan allocating CDBG-DR funds almost exclusively to housing needs, and 70% of total funds obligated for LMI housing, the available balance of funds for non-LMI housing needs is limited. Significant care should be given to ensure that unobligated, non-LMI funds are available to eligible homeowners for homeowner assistance programs or other strategies directly related to long-term housing. Ensuring that all families can return to their homes as quickly as possible should be the highest priority for the first round of funding and diversion of funds to non-housing programs, especially from non-LMI funds, should be limited.
Allocations under the Homeowner Assistance Program strategy should include set-aside funds for homeowners who received and accepted substantial damage letters from the City of Houston. Considering that these letters direct property owners to rebuild or renovate according to new city code requirements, these homeowners face significant added costs to rebuild their homes. Many of these homeowners, who have reached their flood insurance coverage limit, are ineligible for FEMA grants that would otherwise assist with elevation costs. Allocation of CDBG-DR funds for this purpose will help to satisfy the unmet need for property owners who constitute a small number of total homes impacted by Harvey but face a disproportionate cost in order to rebuild their homes according to new city code requirements. The cost of adhering to new ordinance restrictions enacted during the rebuilding process should not be an impediment to a full recovery for these homeowners or a restriction on living in their community of choice.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments and your service to our city. As always, please let me know how I can be of assistance.