Galveston County commissioners on Monday said they wanted the state agency that has so-far handled post-Harvey housing reconstruction to be less involved as the county moves on to planning its long-term recovery from the storm.
In two resolutions that each passed 4-1, commissioners responded to a state action plan published by the Texas General Land Office on April 10 that outlines how the land office plans to direct some $5 billion in hurricane recovery aid sent to Texas from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The plan proposes sending $2.3 billion directly to the city of Houston and Harris County, for those entities to manage their own housing recovery program.
For the remaining parts of Texas, the land office proposed a “state-run model” that administers housing funds — for things like buyouts and homeowner reimbursements — through the agency or regional groups, such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
Commissioners on Monday said they’d greatly prefer the county to manage its own housing program.
“We need to run our own housing program because we know what’s best here,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Clark said.
The county has experience managing housing programs from the work it did after Hurricane Ike in 2008, commissioners said. But officials also are skeptical of the land office’s ability to manage housing, based on how the agency handled its short-term home repair programs.
“I don’t think it was anything to be bragging about,” Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said of the land office’s short-term housing programs. “Now, they want to run the housing program in Galveston County from Austin.”
Commissioner Stephen Holmes voted against the resolutions, saying he wasn’t informed enough about some of the concerns to vote for them. But he agreed the county should be in charge of managing the housing program, he said.
“We managed our housing program very well,” Holmes said.
The resolution also asks for the land office to extend its comment period for the recovery funds. The comment period is scheduled to end Thursday.
Commissioners also want the land office and the federal housing department to consider ways to make more higher-income households eligible for disaster recovery block grants, which will be one of the main sources of Harvey recovery funding in coming years.
“This was not a low-to-moderate income storm,” he said.
Clark suggested that issue might need to be brought to President Donald Trump’s attention.