The House Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee held a hearing on December 1 to address questions to Neal Rackleff, HUD assistant secretary for Community Planning and Development and former director of housing and community development for the City of Houston. The hearing focused on the $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds provided by Congress earlier this year and the Trump administration’s request for an additional $12 billion in CDBG-DR to create a new, competitive program for flood mitigation projects.
Chair Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) dismissed the administration’s request as being woefully insufficient, stating, “This request assumes that we have done all that we need to do . . . Now let me say upfront, I don’t believe that we have done enough in the regular CDBG-DR program. I’ve personally witnessed the devastation in Florida.”
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) criticized the administration for not requesting recovery funding for Puerto Rico. Mr. Rackleff explained that the data assessing unmet needs in Puerto Rico is incomplete. At this time, there are 4,609 FEMA inspectors in Puerto Rico to do this work, and only 36% of the inspections are complete. He also pointed to systemic economic challenges and capacity issues unique to Puerto Rico.
Representative John Culberson (R-TX) noted that Hurricane Harvey caused “the largest housing disaster in the history of the United States of America.” He proposed that HUD reduce the amount of CDBG-DR funds that are targeted to low and moderate income households from the current 70% threshold to 50%. Mr. Rackleff stated HUD should maintain the 70% threshold unless the data indicate a need to adjust the allocation. He also pointed out that low income housing advocates wanted that threshold at 80% and said that reducing the threshold could tie up funding in legal challenges.
Learn more about the hearing at: http://bit.ly/2AOXJmh