HOUSTON (FOX 26) — To learn that the waiting list for affordable housing in Houston has ballooned from a problematic 14,000 people before Hurricane Harvey to more than 112,000 now isn’t only unimaginable, it’s unsettling.
"To think about all of the people in the city of Houston who need quality, decent affordable housing and don’t have access to it, is a striking number,” says Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards.
Carmela Guerra is just under 300 on that waiting list. The mother of four has surrounded herself by prayers on the wall in her temporary FEMA home since her affordable rental flooded. Now, her 18-year-old child has dropped out of school to work and help pay bills.
“As a mother that makes me feel like I've failed him because my worries and my stresses are not supposed to be our kids’ problems,” says Guerra while choking back tears. The Guerra family is just one of many still struggling since Harvey.
"They are really living in their own personal turmoil on a day-to-day basis," adds Council Member Edwards. "They just carry that with them quietly and silently.”
This problem is so big and so complex that when FOX 26 News contacted Houston-area leaders to determine what can be done, Council Member Edwards was one of a few willing to talk about and passionate about finding answers.
"There are a few programs I want to make sure people are aware of and know are available," explains Edwards. "We have CDBG disaster recovery dollars, that’s Community Development Block Grant."
The grant includes millions for owners of small apartment complexes to rebuild. For residents there's the Homeowners Assistance Program.
"That can be anything from mortgage assistance to repairs and rehabilitation to your home,” adds Edwards.
Several non-profit groups are also stepping up. Houston Habitat for Humanity plans to build fifty homes in 2019.
“We’re trying to build faster and build stronger," says Houston Habitat for Humanity executive director Allison Hay as she gives FOX 26 a tour of a beautiful new home. "So we can get as many homeowners that want to be in homes to become homeowners.”
"Harvey has really affected hard-working Houstonians at the lower spectrum of income,” explains Hay.
Even with more than a billion federal dollars coming to Houston, it still leaves thousands of renters waiting for their own place to live.
"We're going to be getting more money to spend in this area than we ever have before," explains Houston Housing Authority president Tory Gunsolley. "The city gets the money. It will generate a lot of new opportunities, but it won't be enough.”
FOX 26 is not finished searching for answers when it comes to affordable housing. In the meantime, there is a hotline you can contact to get more information about the available programs and to learn if you qualify. The City Of Houston Housing Recovery Program phone number is 832-393-0550 and the website is Recovery.HoustonTX.gov.