Historic preservation dispute complicates Hurricane Harvey recovery program


A dispute between the Texas General Land Office and community leaders in some of Houston’s historic colored neighborhoods is hampering progress on a program designed to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

As a result, the progress of rebuilding houses in some areas either stopped or progressed with a different style and sometimes a smaller layout than the houses before the storm. The inconsistency threatens not only the history of these neighborhoods, but also the estimated values ​​of homes, said Judson Robinson III, president of the Houston Area Urban League.

“It’s the vehicle that allows them to pass wealth on to the next generation. … If you deprive tenants of what it takes to have a thriving neighborhood… you are doing residents a disservice, ”Robinson said at a City of Houston press conference on the issue on July 26.

At the heart of the disagreement are different interpretations of the restrictions on acts in Pleasantville in northeast Houston and Sagemont in south Houston. In both neighborhoods, community leaders said existing restrictions on deeds require houses to have specific qualities, such as garages and concrete slab foundations. The Pleasantville neighborhood was one of the first predominantly black communities in the country to be protected by deed restrictions, Mary Fontenot, president of the Pleasantville Civic Club Association, said at the press conference.

“Can you imagine owning a house for 30 or 40 years… and they say, ‘Guess what? “We will reduce the size of your house,” Fontenot said. “What about the equity in your home? “

GLO officials said, however, that funding for the reclamation program, which is restricted to low-income households and administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, has restricted uses, which do not include garages. or other characteristics listed in the restrictions of the act. . The land office can only build houses to the deed restriction standards, said GLO spokeswoman Brittany Eck, if they are enforced by a legally established homeowners association, not a civic club, like it ‘is the case in Pleasantville and Sagemont.

“Funds are limited and the remaining needs huge,” Eck said. “HUD will not allow additional costs beyond the needs of families, so a house may be larger or smaller depending on the size of the family and the existing house. “

Mayor Sylvester Turner called the press conference on the matter, noting that his administration and the GLO were previously locked in a legal battle for control of the salvage funds for several months. The GLO ultimately received control of the program and its funding.

“When the city had this program, people were very critical, but what I will say, we were rebuilding people’s homes as they were,” Turner said. “We weren’t downgrading their value or downgrading their quarters. “

Eck, however, noted that as of July 21, after monitoring the program for 14 months, the GLO had rebuilt 121 homes in Houston. When the city of Houston controlled the funds, it was able to build 45 homes in 14 months, according to GLO data.


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