Hurricane Harvey Pressures White House and Congress to Act Quickly to Approve Billions of Dollars for Rescue and Recovery

We know that we are not alone in the very unsettled feelings that the images and stories from the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in the southeastern Houston, Texas region give us.

And for those of us working to end homelessness and expand affordable housing, we naturally think about the added burden that the aftermath of the Hurricane will place on the already taxed homeless assistance system and the affordable housing crisis.

Diane Yentel of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shared an update on the devastation that we are sharing below. The devastation from Hurricane Harvey and the catastrophic flooding in its aftermath is affecting millions of residents in southeastern Texas.

But none are more vulnerable than those with extremely low incomes who most frequently reside in the area’s flood plains and who have the fewest resources to recover from such a disaster.

Massive dislocation and homelessness are inevitable. The storm will require the White House and Congress to act quickly to approve billions of dollars in rescue and recovery funds. Assisting and re-housing those with the lowest incomes must be a priority.

The region has many subsidized housing complexes and public housing developments within the hurricane’s path and the 100-year floodplain (see map of HUD-assisted housing threated by Hurricane Harvey.) The floodplain’s residents are at risk of displacement and buildings are at risk of severe flooding, and thousands of other low income households live in low-lying areas without assistance.

As recently as April of this year a storm dumped 15 inches of rain in and around Houston. Images of low income residents of the city’s Arbor Court apartments riding inflatable rafts, sanitation trucks, and a refrigerator served as a small forewarning of Harvey’s impact. Some estimates are that the Houston area will receive 50 inches of rain this week as a result of the storm, and the flooding, already catastrophic, will be historic in its devastation.

The storm arrives as Washington is beset by budget battles for FY18. And Congress has very little time to resolve differences and pass a spending package as the government is funded only through September. President Trump has threatened to partially shut down the government if lawmakers do not approve $1.6 billion in funding to begin building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Harvey will require the White House and Congress to resolve their differences quickly. A government shutdown would impact funding to the multiple agencies involved in rescue, relief, and rebuilding efforts.

NLIHC will closely monitor the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey with our members and partners in Texas, including NLIHC state-partners the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, the Texas Homeless Network, and the Texas Association of Community Development Corporations, as well as with Capitol Hill and the administration, and will work to ensure the disaster recovery and long-term housing needs of the lowest income people are met.

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