HUD Outlines Harvey Housing Relief Efforts
With an estimated 40,000 homes destroyed, many in low-income neighborhoods, Houston will have to rely on federal dollars to get Texans back into homes. Facing its own struggles and its first major test under Ben Carson, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is setting up Hurricane Harvey relief programs.
HUD is the lead federal coordinating agency for long-term disaster-related housing needs resulting from Hurricane Harvey. In the short term, HUD (which just finished paying out for Houston's 2015 floods this year) is taking action in the following ways, according to a press release:
- Coordinating Federal Emergency Management Agency transitional housing assistance, which provides lodging to displaced survivors who need a place immediately. FEMA pays the hotel/motel directly for this assistance.
- Organizing and coordinating local communities, the American Red Cross, and other voluntary and faith-based agencies providing emergency shelter to those displaced by the storm and subsequent flooding.
- Directing AmeriCorps and other voluntary and faith-based organizations helping to clean out flood damage to homes.
- Providing immediate foreclosure relief by granting a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and forbearance on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration-insured home mortgages.
Texans will be dealing with the fallout from Harvey for months, if not years. HUD has outlined intermediate and long-term activities in its plan to assist those devastated by the storm.
- Making mortgage insurance available by providing FHA insurance to disaster victims who lost their homes. Borrowers from participating FHA-approved lenders may be eligible for 100% financing.
- HUD's Section 203(k) loan program enables those who have lost their homes to finance the purchase or refinance of a house along with its repair through a single mortgage.
- Offering state and local governments federally guaranteed loans for housing rehabilitation, economic development and repair of public infrastructure as part of Section 108 Loan Guarantee Assistance.
- FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program provides financial assistance in the form of grants to survivors with uninsured or underinsured flood-related losses.
HUD has gotten flak in recent months. After a rough confirmation hearing, many wondered if Ben Carson could help the struggling federal agency he has spoken out against. President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls for cutting close to $7B from the agency, about 15% of its total budget.
Trump's cuts, which Congress needs to approve or amend by the end of September, would mean that several programs would be eliminated entirely, including the HOME program, which offers seed money for affordable-housing initiatives, and the $3B Community Development Block Grant program.
Two weeks ago, New York Magazine ran an extensive report on the state of HUD, painting a bleak and rudderless picture as cuts dig in and key positions go unfilled.
When the flood waters clear and FEMA packs up, Ben Carson and his 7,400 tenured employees will be left to deal with Harvey's housing crisis, the agency's first big test under new leadership.