Mayor's Office Press Release

City of Houston Responds to GLO Claims on Harvey Housing Funding

July 13, 2022 -- The City of Houston has sent an official response to the Texas General Land Office's (GLO) July 1 letter regarding the City's progress on providing relief and recovery to residents using Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) federal funds.

As the response notes, the City’s Housing & Community Development Department invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into administering these programs for the betterment of our entire community, including those affected by Harvey facing social and economic disadvantages, despite facing difficult economic and societal challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite GLO’s continuous efforts to hinder our success, since January 2019, when the parties signed the original GLO Contract (No. 19-14-147-001- B489), the City has accomplished numerous goals.

Response Letter to General Land Office

"Given GLO's unfair treatment of the City and Houstonians during the Competition and over the life of the Contract, as evidenced by GLO's most recent attempts to redirect funds away from the City, the City has grave concerns that GLO will continue to make the administration of the CDBG-DR 2017 grant allocation prohibitively burdensome because of duplicative, inefficient, inaccurate, and expensive processes and requirements," noted Keith Bynam, HCD Director, in the letter.

Last week, the City's Housing and Community Development department issued the following release reacting to receipt of the letter from GLO:

The City of Houston Housing and Community Development (HCD) department is fed-up with the General Land Office’s (GLO) continued actions to thwart the City of Houston’s (COH) post-Harvey recovery efforts.

Although the City has had ongoing discussions with the GLO, the allegations outlined in the GLO’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Benchmark status letter dated July 1, 2022, are largely inaccurate and omit critical details about the GLO’s direct involvement in the City’s inability to meet its benchmarks. Specifically, documentation and approvals for several programs and projects have been delayed by the GLO for six (6) to nine (9) months, respectively, prohibiting HCD from meeting its benchmarks.

“Given that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has already determined that GLO discriminated against communities of color by denying flood mitigation funding to the City of Houston, it is audacious that GLO would actively slow down the process of providing much-needed relief and restoration to those who suffered losses from Hurricane Harvey,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The office’s adversarial relationship with the City benefits no one, especially not those who are already up against the ropes.”

To date, the GLO has provided zero dollars in Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funding to the City of Houston, despite the region bearing half of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

HCD is currently awaiting GLO approval for $120 million in critical projects. Without GLO’s approval, the City would likely not be reimbursed by the GLO, thus forcing the City to wait at the discretion of the GLO and, in essence, stalling its ability to help Houston residents.

“On July 7, the GLO notified the City that it was removing $40 Million from the City’s Public Services program to use the funds for its oversubscription of the GLO Homeowner Assistance Program,” said Director Keith Bynam, Houston Housing and Community Development. “This reverse Robin Hood effect is a calculated move by the GLO and has real ramifications. Houstonians are not nameless widgets or numbers on a page; they are people with lives and jobs and families, and they deserve better. These Houstonians need help to recover, not be stripped of funds, have funds redirected or endure more delays.”

The Public Services Program has endured six (6) months of delays prohibiting it from meeting its benchmarks and issuing a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) to nonprofit partners that provide essential mental health services to our City’s most vulnerable populations.

Due to ongoing delays, the GLO was made aware that the Public Services Program would not meet its benchmarks if a one-year extension was not granted. As an alternative, HCD asked to have the remaining funds shifted to the City’s Multi-Family Program to increase the affordable homes inventory for low-to-moderate-income Houstonians.

Delayed approvals and denied extensions have created severe cash flow issues for the Public Services Program’s nonprofit providers. Without support from the GLO and reimbursement from the COH, many providers have had to float the funding for their programs resulting in reduced staffing and services. Removing $40 million from the Public Services DR-17 program will gravely impact services for persons experiencing or on the verge of homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and job training programs.

“It is unconscionable that the GLO would remove funding from the City of Houston,” said Melody Barr, Deputy Assistant Director, Houston’s Public Services Program. “Our department and non-profit service providers have worked tirelessly, answered numerous questions, and submitted copious rounds of documentation, all to have the funds taken away to benefit the GLO’s own programs.”
On July 8, the GLO notified the City that it was removing $12 million from HCD’s Economic Development program as well.

“The reallocation of $12 million from the program will hurt Houston businesses impacted by Hurricane Harvey and reduce the number of jobs these businesses would have created,” said Ray Miller, Assistant Director, Housing and Community Development. The funds the GLO will be removing from our HEDP will once again be redirected to benefit the GLO’s own Homeowner Assistance Program.

These are the latest examples of the GLO’s unreasonable and unjustified actions toward the City of Houston.

As governmental entities, the GLO and the COH have a mutual responsibility to Houston residents. It has been five (5) years since Hurricane Harvey and three (3) years since funds were awarded to the COH to begin programming.

Despite the GLO’s continued intervention, the COH has made great strides to improve the quality of life for Houstonians, processed thousands of applicants, and has applied a fair and consistent process for all programs. Still, the City could and had planned on doing so much more.

HCD urges the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate the GLO’s biased and inconsistent treatment of the COH and its residents.

Until then, the City of Houston will continue to be transparent and fight for Houstonians and Houston’s recovery. For additional information on how the GLO has purposely delayed COH programs, please contact hcddpio@houstontx.gov.

The City of Houston Housing and Community Development (HCD) department makes long-term investments to improve the lives of Houston residents by creating opportunities for every Houstonian to have a home they can afford in a community where they can thrive. Our department will invest approximately $450 million in federal, state, and local funds this fiscal year to construct and maintain affordable homes, reduce barriers to homeownership, support the work of social service providers, build public amenities, and facilitate disaster recovery efforts. Learn more about programs and resources for Houstonians at https://www.houstontx.gov/housing.