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Many Factors Delayed Repair Of Hundreds Of Ike-Damaged Roofs In Houston For Years

Former Mayors Annise Parker and Bill White say some homeowners didn’t use reimbursements they received to make those repairs.



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Tarps such as the one this photo shows covered the roof of Ms. Vallia Huff's home for eight years.

As we have reported this week, Vallia Huff is a Houston senior citizen who lost her roof to hurricane Ike in 2008.

Through its so-called blue tarp program, the City of Houston finally provided Huff with a new roof at the end of September.

She says that something many of us take for granted would change her life because "every time it rains, you go into a panic."

So, why are there still hundreds of homes in need of repair?

It is a complicated issue, so we spoke with some of the top people who were in charge of leading the city when hurricane Ike hit Houston and during the aftermath.

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker says some people chose not to fix their homes.

"There may have been people who received the dollars and did not turn around to put those dollars into the necessary home repairs. The City of Houston was contracting directly with contractors to do the repairs, but there are some other programs where the homeowners themselves received the dollars," Parker said.

Those other programs were managed by the federal government.

Parker's immediate predecessor, Bill White, agrees with her assessment.

"We had abundant evidence that some people chose to cash their checks and not have their homes repaired," he said.

Parker also says many people lacked homeowners insurance.

In other cases, back taxes, confusion about ownership of the homes and other factors, such as simply not completing the paperwork for assistance, slowed down the process and eventually put it to a halt.

Other Houstonians didn't get timely repairs because their homes didn’t qualify for federal assistance.

For example, they exceeded the cap set by the government on the property’s damage.

Parker says that, at the time, if the damage to the property was higher than $25,000, the homeowner wasn't eligible for assistance because the damage exceeded the threshold set by the federal government.

However, some housing experts think the genesis of the problem was in fact years in the making.

John Henneberger is co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and thinks the blue tarps represent "a failure to plan for the rebuilding following a disaster."

"It had to do with long-term structural and administrative problems within the city’s housing department," adds Henneberger who, nonetheless, notes those problems predated the White and Parker administrations.

Tom McCasland, the current director of the city's Housing and Community Development Department, says right after the hurricane the city was focused on a particular type of housing.

"We’ve done a lot of good work using the Ike funds, some of it has gone into multi-family, replacement units," McCasland said. "Some of it has gone into replacing entire homes and all of that is excellent work that needs to be done, but one of the things that this mayor wants to support is single-family homeownership."

Sylvester Turner addressed the blue tarp situation last year, when he was running for mayor.

He said the city has a duty to repair the roofs and it has identified more than 500 homes with blue tarps.

Turner announced the roof repair program at the beginning of September.

He said the initiative is directly related to a concept he campaigned on in 2015 called complete communities, which, among other things, means fixing damaged roofs.

And the mayor emphasizes he is not implementing the program because of a major event that is now just around the corner.

"Has nothing to do with the Super Bowl," Turner assured at a press conference held at Houston City Hall several days after announcing the launch of the program and added "it has everything to do about quality of life and providing people with a quality of life."

According to the Housing and Community Development Department, as of December 15th, the city had approved repairs for 168 homes.

After eight years of not having a solid roof, this is how Huff's home looks now.