Hurricane Ike struck more than four years ago, but the federally funded housing reconstruction and repair programs that are part of the recovery efforts live on — and are headed to a second phase.
The county and the city of Galveston have more than $235 million set aside to rebuild or repair houses or rental properties damaged by the 2008 hurricane.
Last month the Texas General Land Office, which oversees the U.S. Housing and Urban Development dollars that fund the programs, announced URS Corp. would handle the administrative duties for the city of Galveston’s housing program while the county’s administration firm would be Horne LLC., a newcomer to the disaster housing program.
The pick surprised county officials, who recommended other firms get the contract. County commissioners recommended that URS, Shaw or ACS be awarded the contract, with URS at the top of the county’s list. However, the state has final say.
Jim Gentile, the county’s director for housing and economic development, said he hopes to convert the county’s $115 million into more than 700 new or repaired houses or rental properties. In the first round of the program, 665 houses were built, Gentile said.
The county’s first round wrapped up in July, ahead of schedule, despite a rough start that saw two former housing directors fired.
“My feeling is we will get more done at a much better pace this time,” Gentile said, noting that the county learned some valuable lessons.
The Galveston program was plagued by delays. The city dumped its original administrative firm. The state, unhappy with the island’s progress, eventually took over in 2012 and hired URS to manage the program.
Land office spokesman Jim Suydam said the state would maintain control of the island’s program.
The final contracts with the administration firms are still in the works, so Round 2 hasn’t gotten under way. When it does, the rules will be somewhat different.
Instead of the first-come, first-served processing, priority will be given to property owners based on the minority population and poverty concentration of the area. The susceptibility of a property to flooding will also be considered in determining whether the property is fit for a reconstruction or repair.
Ike CDBG Housing Round 2
County: $115 million
Galveston: $122 million