Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said he is proud Commissioners Court voted unanimously to approve his request to add $7.7 million to a buyout program that gives repeat flood victims – including undocumented immigrants – more money for relocation.
The measure, drafted by Harris County Community Services Department, came about after potential buyout clients and advocates complained that families were not given enough funds to relocate.
“I want to thank residents and organizers, including Texas Organizing Project, for bringing the issue of insufficient compensation to our attention,” Commissioner Ellis said. “Also, I want to thank Community Services Interim Director Thao Costis and her staff for their responsiveness.”
Commissioner Ellis said increasing relocation benefits was necessary 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.
“Regardless of immigration status, everyone in Harris County deserves safety from flooding and to be able to recover from increasingly severe climate disasters,” Commissioner Ellis said.