Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis will ask Commissioners Court today to add $7.7 million to a buyout program to provide repeat flood victims – including undocumented immigrants – with more money for relocation.
“This is the first mandatory buyout program in the country,” Commissioner Ellis said. “With this program, we are trying to keep families safe from increasingly severe flooding. But the county can’t accomplish its goals if residents aren’t compensated appropriately.”
Commissioner Ellis proposes to increase the allocation for benefits to achieve parity with federal funding levels received by other buyout participants.
The Project Recovery Post Disaster Relocation and Buyout Program’s SAFE initiative is a mandatory buyout program designed to reduce the risk of future flooding and increase the safety of residents and businesses in areas that have experienced repetitive flooding.
Property owners in targeted areas will be offered fair market appraised value for their property – residential, commercial, or vacant. Relocation assistance could include advisory services, moving and related expenses, business re-establishment services, replacement housing payments, rental assistance payments, and down payment assistance for replacement homes.
The program is one of the first mandatory buyouts in response to the climate crisis. Low-income families who had no choice but to participate were not being offered enough money to do so. Undocumented families in Precinct One were not being treated the same as those with citizenship.
“Immigration status should have no bearing on one’s ability to recover from a climate disaster or to live in a healthy home less vulnerable to flooding,” Commissioner Ellis said.