In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Texas Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush released a report listing recommendations on how to better handle disasters in the future. Hurricane Harvey: Texas At Risk includes 18 recommendations aimed at all levels of government.
"Preparedness and mitigation are the best remedies to address the threats posed by natural disasters," said Commissioner Bush. "As the first state agency in Texas history to partner with FEMA on the short-term housing mission, as well as the designated lead for long-term CDBG-DR administration, the GLO has been uniquely positioned to identify and assess issues that hinder housing recovery efforts. I appreciate the local, state and federal officials who contributed their candor and expertise to the drafting of these recommendations which provides a comprehensive roadmap for innovating flood mitigation and making recovery more expeditious and cost effective in the future."
Included in Bush’s report are suggestions focused on federal housing buyback programs. The proposal suggests accelerating these programs for homes which repeatedly flood, taking the homes out of use and turning the property into green space. Additionally, Bush calls for the disaster housing programs of FEMA, HUD, and the SBA into one agency in order to eliminate competition which slows down response time.
Many investors purchased storm-damaged homes at greatly reduced prices following Hurricane Harvey. Bush proposes additional funds for state and county buyback programs to purchase these homes as well, as they currently cannot compete with private investors. The purpose of these purchases is, as mentioned above, to remove repeatedly flood-damaged homes from the market, as Texas law currently does not require landlords to disclose whether a home has flooded or sits in a flood plain.
In addition, Bush calls for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to “rewrite the formula for the allocation of funding to municipal and county governments directing aid to low- and moderate-income people so that all people in these categories are assisted.” In the past, disaster relief focused heavily on predominantly low-income areas. This leaves other low-income families in predominantly high-income areas without assistance. Instead, the Texas Land Office suggests amending HUD regulations to include all low and moderate income families impacted by disaster.
Find the full report here.