It has been ten years since Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast, but some Galveston residents are still trying to rebuild, while others have left. And some say there’s a kind of an apartheid that primarily affects residents of public housing.
Edgar Walters, who reported on the impact Ike had on public housing in Galveston for the Texas Tribune, says money allocated for housing hasn’t been used.
“As a matter of fact, there’s actually half a billion dollars in hurricane recovery money that hasn’t been spent yet and a really big chunk of that goes to housing,” Walters says.
Expenditures on public housing, post-Ike have been mired in bureaucratic delays as well as political disputes. The federal money was earmarked to replace the 569 public housing units destroyed by the storm.
“The city of Galveston basically said ‘we don’t want to rebuild these dense public projects’ as people refer to them,” Walters says.
Some community members opposed more public housing, saying the complexes were “ghettos” and often home to drugs and crime. This brought backlash from fair housing advocates who called the criticisms “racist rhetoric.”
While the debate continued, displaced people moved away from the island, including many with ties to Galveston dating back 100 years.
Walters says the state is now responsible for making sure that funds are spent, and housing built. The Texas General Land Office is awarding leftover funds. The first round of grants has gone to private developers, who will be building units that will serve as public housing units for 15 years. The developer can then sell the units on the private market.
“A later round of grant’s will probably be given to the Housing Authority itself to build new replacement public housing units that the housing authorities itself will own,” Walters says.
Written by Angela Bonilla.