NLIHC and Disaster Recovery Advocates Send Disaster Recovery Transparency Recommendations to HUD

NLIHC, the Fair Share Housing Center of New Jersey, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, and Texas Appleseed sent a memo to HUD on May 6 with recommendations to increase transparency and public involvement in the agency’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR). CDBG-DR is the only source of federal long-term disaster recovery funds. The memo outlined concerns about HUD’s recently released “Citizen Participation and Equitable Engagement Toolkit,” a document delineating the steps that state governments receiving CDBG-DR funds can take to ensure that adequate public input is collected regarding plans to distribute funding to disaster survivors and to comply with civil rights obligations.

In particular, the memo explained the necessity of refining how states calculate their needs during long-term recovery in ways that ensure funds will be distributed equitably to those individuals most in need of assistance after disasters. The memo also stressed the need for public access to data being used to create unmet needs assessments, without which the public would be unable to fully analyze where and why these important federal funds are being spent. Finally, the memo called for state grantees to directly align spending plans with objective measurements of need – as opposed to political whims – and do so in ways that do not force the displacement of impacted communities, as has happened in many states and territories. The memo asks HUD to revise the toolkit and re-release it after responding to these recommendations.

Perhaps the most recent example of HUD recovery funding failing to meet the specifications detailed in the memo is the recent disbursement of Hurricane Harvey mitigation funds by the Texas General Land Office. The scheme used to distribute those funds resulted in a disproportionate amount of assistance going to counties with majority white populations that had received relatively light damage from Hurricane Harvey, while more diverse, urban jurisdictions such as Houston were denied access to the funds. A civil rights complaint was filed by NLIHC partner Texas Housers regarding the distribution, with HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity finding that the program was discriminatory. 

Read the text of the memo at: