County commissioners want the Texas General Land Office to take a closer look at Galveston County before going ahead with a plan on how to split up money for Hurricane Harvey housing recovery.
In a letter approved by commissioners on Monday, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry urged the land office to complete a county needs assessment as part of its homeowner assistance program.
The letter is the latest example of county leaders asking for more local consideration from the land office as Hurricane Harvey recovery moves forward.
A county-based needs assessment would be more detailed than the assessment the land office is using to plan its housing assistance program, Henry said.
“A county needs assessment should be completed and utilized in lieu of a regional needs assessment,” Henry wrote. “A first-come, first-serve regional program is not fair to the citizens of Galveston County or any of the other counties.”
On Oct. 19, the General Land Office released its draft guidelines for its homeowner assistance program, starting a 30-day public comment period that’s required before the program can begin. The housing program will be used to distribute about $1 billion to homeowners to renovate or rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey, which flooded thousands of houses throughout the county in August 2017.
Of that, $258,049,169 was allocated to be split between Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery and Walker counties. The county’s draft plan is based on an assessment of the housing needs of those six counties.
That assessment was conducted by Houston-Galveston Area Council, a regional group, which often helps direct federal and state grant funds in the area.
The county’s letter stated that, in the case of the housing program, the regional approach shouldn’t be used.
“Distribution of funding should be done based on county needs and damage assessments,” Henry wrote. “There should be no regional pooling of funds.”
After the meeting, Henry said he worried that pooling the money for six counties would result in more “gamesmanship” between homeowners that want to rebuild.
The county’s letter is the latest example of the county asking for special considerations from the land office. In August, commissioners wrote the land office asking for more control of local housing recovery and for changes to the way money can be spent in low-and-moderate income areas.
Some 20,000 homes in Galveston County were damaged by Hurricane Harvey’s floods. The county had the second-highest number of damaged properties after Harris County, Henry said.
The land office had not officially received the letter as of Monday afternoon, but a spokeswoman said the comments would be taken into consideration as the agency finalizes its plans for the program.
“All of the public comments that we receive are going to be considered,” said land office spokeswoman Brittany Eck.
The land office already responded to concerns about how much money will end up in the worst-affected areas of the state and the state agency plans to open an office in Galveston County specifically to serve people who are interested in signing up for the housing program, Eck said.