The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has extended the deadline for public comments on the Texas State Action Plan until 5:00 pm CT, February 20. The action plan explains how the state, led by the General Land Office (GLO), plans to spend its initial $57.8 million in Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding. Texas Housers, an NLIHC state partner, has sign-on letters for local Texas groups and for national organizations to address their concerns regarding the action plan. The organization has also been providing critiques and information regarding the plan on its blog.
Some highlights of Texas Housers’ concerns include:
- Infrastructure Projects. Texas Housers released a report analyzing the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas’s October Request for Federal Assistance for Infrastructure Projects. Texas Housers’ analysis finds that the governor’s list of 281 infrastructure projects totaling $61 billion in funding is a “seemingly random list of projects that are not prioritized” and underrepresents Texas communities with known disaster needs. Texas Housers found major inconsistencies in how projects were selected and asks the GLO, responsible for administering these grants, not to accept the Governor’s Commission request at face value.
- Buyouts. The GLO proposes using $35 million for property buyouts in Harris County (where Houston is located), but buyouts need careful planning and community engagement to avoid pricing anomalies or the creation of mostly vacant neighborhoods. Buyout programs also need to be transparent, accessible, and holistic to ensure low income households receive sufficient funding to find a new home. Additionally, the immediate needs of families should supersede the pursuit of mass buyouts.
- Fair Housing. Despite major fair housing lawsuits against the State of Texas and local city governments, the GLO plan takes no concrete actions to affirmatively further fair housing. Texas Housers makes several recommendations to the GLO on how to better comply with fair housing laws and promote opportunity and equity: collect and share data that can help identify disparities; incorporate provisions from previous conciliation agreements; provide mandatory training to cities and counties; and ensure the needs of low income people are met first, among others.
- Needs Assessment Critiques. CDBG-DR funds are intended to benefit low and moderate income people to help ensure an equitable recovery. The state government is responsible for implementing that requirement through a needs assessment. Texas Housers has noted several deficiencies in the needs assessment the GLO implemented for its plan to spend the initial $57.8 billion allocation. They cited several HUD recommendations for a quality needs assessment: collect and update data; analyze data through a lens of impact on short-term recovery; estimate unmet need; and prioritize needs as to not exacerbate pre-disaster conditions.
- Lack of Citizen Participation Plan. Despite regulations from HUD that require states to establish a citizen participation plan, the GLO has not included one in its action plan. In comments submitted to GLO, Texas Housers proposes several actions, including public hearings, greater publicity about the plan, and the adoption of strategies used by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.