Hurricane Harvey recovery funds could come with strings attached

For Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards, the proposal presented an unacceptable indignity - an insult to the thousands of Houstonians still suffering in Harvey ravaged homes 19 months after the storm.

With Federal reconstruction dollars finally on the cusp of distribution, the City of Houston was proposing that aid recipients remain in their repaired homes or seek permission from housing authorities if they chose to leave for more than 90 days.

And that's not all.

The penalty for an extended, unapproved absence was potential foreclosure on the property by the City. 

"Our residents have had enough stress. Our residents have had enough struggle. You would be on pins and needles in a 90 day scenario in which case you could have work issues arise, you could have medical concerns, you could have a variety of things, family issues whatever could happen that could still get triggered and it would still be in the discretion of the housing director,” said Edwards.

Following a week of intense lobbying coupled with citizen protest, Edwards succeeded in persuading Mayor Sylvester Turner to alter course.

“We have heard you. We have removed the permission requirement completely,” said Turner.

What the Mayor would not do was abandon the City's authority to foreclose on homeowners found to be in non-compliance and in a tight Council vote, he ultimately prevailed.

With only a partial victory in hand, Edwards still fears vulnerable homeowners could fall victim to City overreach.

“We have to ask ourselves, is this necessary? Is this going to be a barrier? We have to be really probing those questions if we expect people to utilize the $1.3 billion we have access to and not be afraid of it,” said Edwards.

During Wednesday’s debate, Mayor Turner argued that the City needed to maintain its authority to place liens or foreclose in order to comply with federal regulations.