$2 billion more needed to meet housing needs from Harvey, city says

Assessment done by City of Houston was published on Oct. 5


HOUSTON – An additional $2 billion in federal resources is needed to meet the most serious housing needs after Hurricane Harvey, according to an assessment published by the City of Houston.

The assessment was published on Oct. 5 and is open for public comment until Nov. 5.

Other key findings of the assessment were:

  • Flooding devastated areas with high levels of social vulnerability, where low-income residents have the fewest resources to recover. Twelve neighborhoods were identified that have at least one census tract with very high social vulnerability and damage above 50% of the estimated annual income of residents in the buildings that were damaged: Braeburn, East Houston, Golfcrest, Greater 5th Ward, Greenspoint, Gulfton, Hunterwood, Inwood, Lawndale, Midwest, Northshire and Northside.
  • Neighborhoods with high home values have received the greatest assistance to date, from a combination of the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA Individual Assistance program and Small Business Administration loans.
  • Of the damage from Harvey, 59 percent occurred outside the 500-year floodplain. Sustained, heavy rainfall over inadequate drainage systems caused ponding across all areas of the city, in additional to overflow from bayous and reservoir releases.
  • About 30 percent of the 700,000 households in Houston sustained some form of damage to their home or personal property, with flood waters coming very close or touching the building. 10 percent of households had flood water inside their homes.

“Major disasters have hit Houston five times in the last three years,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “If we chronically undercount the damage from these storms, then we’re going to be chronically under-resourced for recovery. I’m committed to continuing to fight for the resources Houston needs to build forward into a more resilient and equitable city.”

The assessment is the product of an eight-month study conducted by a team of data scientists, flood engineers, and Housing and Community Development Department staff.

The study was designed to assess the full extent of damage from Harvey. It represents an innovative new approach to assessing residential damage after a major disaster.

Existing methods for calculating residential damage after a disaster are limited and have the potential to severely underestimate recovery needs, because they are based only on FEMA Individual Assistance claims that meet certain thresholds for FEMA-verified loss.

The city’s new methodology more accurately accounts for residential damage and identifies people the old model missed.

“We have to count people who may not have raised their hand to ask for help,” said Tom McCasland, director of Housing and Community Development. “We need to understand the impact through an equity lens. Using the latest technology to correctly account for the impact of disasters on the city is going to help us recover smarter.”

As of February 2018, when the most recent data is available, Houstonians have received approximately $3 billion in federal assistance through the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA Individual Assistance, and SBA loans.

An additional $1.17 billion for long-term housing recovery from HUD is expected to become available in December 2018.

A fact sheet about the assessment is available on the Housing and Community Development Department website at http://houstontx.gov/housing.

Public comments on the local needs assessment may be submitted by email to: Fatima.Wajahat@houstontx.gov or by mail: HCDD, ATTN: Fatima Wajahat, 601 Sawyer, Suite 400, Houston, TX 77007.

View the draft at:
HCDD website http://houstontx.gov/housing
Main Public Library – 500 McKinney, 77002
HCDD Office – 601 Sawyer, Suite 400, 77007 (copies may be obtained at this location upon request)

To learn more about CDBG-DR and upcoming events related to disaster recovery, please call 832.394.6200 or visit www.houstontx.gov/housing.