The US housing secretary has given Galveston officials 30 days to develop a plan for rebuilding public housing damaged by Hurricane Ike, according to The Houston Chronicle:
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan made the demand on Monday in a meeting in Washington with a Galveston delegation led by newly elected Mayor Lewis Rosen, who campaigned on a pledge not to rebuild the public housing.
“He made it clear to them that if they were unwilling to move forward that it could jeopardize all of their disaster recovery funds,” said the official, who asked to be identified only as a senior HUD official. HUD has allocated about $589 million to help residents, businesses and local governments recover from the hurricane.
Rosen said during his campaign that rather than rebuild the flooded housing units, he would obtain vouchers that low-income residents could use to rent housing anywhere. He and his supporters said public housing developments breed crime and mire residents in a culture of poverty and dependence.
The issue became divisive, with civil rights groups and public housing advocates arguing that Rosen’s position amounted to an assault on the poor. Joe Jaworski, the incumbent mayor ousted by Rosen, supported rebuilding.
One of Rosen’s first acts as mayor was to replace three of the five members of the Galveston Housing Authority board. The new majority put a moratorium on moves toward rebuilding public housing until the new members could educate themselves and asked for a moratorium on City Council actions as well.
Buddy Herz, a Rosen appointee who chairs the housing authority board, declined to discuss the meeting with Donovan in detail.
“We were treated with respect,” Herz said. “Both the mayor and I presented our positions … and our views on vouchers.”
Herz said the housing authority will meet with staff from the Texas General Land Office on Wednesday to discuss a state plan for rebuilding public housing.
“I believe that HUD was encouraging us to go along with the GLO plan,” he said.
Herz declined to say whether he and the mayor were sticking to their voucher plan.
“I won’t know until I see the GLO plan,” he said.
Land Office’s plan
GLO spokesman Jim Suydam said agency staff have been developing a plan for months after consulting with HUD, low-income housing advocacy groups and Galveston officials. The staff will meet with the mayor to get his opinion, Suydam said.
Donovan urged Galveston officials to move forward with plans to build mixed-income housing to replace the Magnolia and Cedar Terrace public housing developments, the HUD official said. The points backed by Donovan appeared to favor a plan by the former housing authority majority that Rosen campaigned against.
The Galveston Housing Authority Chair was interviewed during the meeting Wednesday by Guidry News:
Galveston Housing Authority Chair Buddy Herz is meeting with representatives of the Texas General Land Office this afternoon to discuss issues related to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ultimatum to remove a moratorium on plans to replace flooded public-housing units demolished after Hurricane Ike or lose about $586 million in federal aid.
The meeting was still in progress at publication time, but Herz took time for a brief interview with Guidry News Service. Listen
“We are having an interesting meeting with the GLO,” Herz said. “They have made an interesting proposal and it will take some time to work through the proposal. They are taking the lead in this matter and we will try to put something together between the advocates for low income housing and and HUD and us. All I can tell you right now is their proposal is extremely interesting.”