Houston seeks $2B more for Hurricane Harvey housing recovery
HOUSTON (AP) — Houston officials are preparing to request an additional $2 billion from Congress to provide more assistance to residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
The request comes as lawmakers also consider aid for victims of recent hurricanes Florence and Michael, which devastated parts of North Carolina and Florida, the Houston Chronicle reported.
City officials are going away from the traditional method for calculating how much aid is needed.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determines need by looking at recipients of individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But Houston’s request is based on a methodology that includes many more people affected by the storm, whether or not they applied for FEMA aid.
“We’re chronically undercounting the most vulnerable populations,” said Tom McCasland, director of the Houston Housing and Community Development Department. “That’s why it’s important not to start with FEMA.”
If Congress approves the city’s request, the methodology could influence how other cities calculate need after disasters.
Houston specifically based its analysis on flood modeling, which uses data points such as drone imagery of the storm and flooding. The analysis considers other factors such as a building’s size and the lot’s surface permeability to determine the likely damage caused to the home and its contents.
Houston’s new analysis found that Harvey caused $16 billion worth of residential damage in the city. Officials concluded that $3.1 billion of the total meets the federal housing department’s criteria for unmet need, which is $2 billion more than the agency is already sending.
HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said that such local analyses are often used by cities to make their case for more funding, but tend to have “more expansive” estimates of unmet needs than the federal agency’s estimates. Sullivan said HUD’s standards are necessary to treat communities equally after disasters.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com