A portion of the $2.3 billion set aside by the U.S. Congress for disaster recovery in 2018 has made its way to Harris County.
Harris County Commissioners Court accepted more than $909 million in federal funds at a Jan. 29 meeting to help homeowners repair and rebuild homes that were damaged during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, and to reimburse homeowners who made repairs out of pocket. The funds were made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and will be distributed over the coming months, according to a statement released by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
As of Jan. 29, homeowners can apply for consideration for funding online at www.harrisrecovery.org. Funding will be distributed across six housing programs, county officials said.
- A housing assistance program, including home repairs and rebuilds for housing that was damaged during Harvey
- A reimbursement program providing reimbursements of up to $50,000 for homeowners who spent money out of pocket and have not already been reimbursed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency or through insurance
- A buyout program providing home buyout funds for low-income homeowners
- An affordable rental program that involves working with developers and apartment owners to rehabilitate damaged apartments and build new affordable apartments throughout the county, specifically in places heavily affected by Harvey
- An affordable construction program that involves partnering with the Harris County Engineering Department on creating more affordable housing, specifically single-family owner-occupied housing
- A planning program the involves conducting a comprehensive affordable housing study to find out where more affordable housing is needed in the county
Daphne Lemelle, the executive director of the Harris County Community Services Department, said her department is working to bring a vendor for commissioners to approve at the Feb. 12 meeting that would conduct the outreach and application intake on behalf of the housing programs.
“That will really be the key step to be out in the community working with individual homeowners and applicants for recovery and assistance,” Lemelle said at the Jan. 29 meeting. “Any homeowner who is still in need … can go to our website now and submit an application to us so they’re on our list and we know they are there and we can reach out to them directly.”
A resource department is also on hand to connect homeowners who do not qualify for funding to nonprofits and charitable organizations, Lamelle said.
“While it’s a lot of money, it’s not going to be totally enough to meet all the need out there, but we’re hoping to meet the needs of a lot of folks who are in the repair process,” she said.