Serving the Community
Hurricane Harvey affected communities across all socioeconomic backgrounds, but the storm severely devastated many low- and moderate-income communities and further exposed challenges those individuals and families already face. Immediately following Harvey’s landfall, many banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), credit unions and nonprofits mobilized to help the region recover.
To help banks understand the Community Reinvestment Act’s (CRA) application to disaster recovery efforts, the Dallas Fed led an interagency effort with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to host a series of CRA bankers’ roundtables across the affected region. These roundtables brought together individuals representing federal agencies, banks, nonprofits and community leaders from areas impacted by the storm. They came from Houston, Victoria, Rockport, Corpus Christi, Beaumont and places in between to explore opportunities, collaborations and investments available through the CRA.
One of the most devastating impacts of Harvey was damage caused to homes and housing structures, placing greater strain on a housing system already stretched thin. In Harris County, prior to the storm, more than 30 percent of households were classified as “housing-cost burdened.” This is where residents spend more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing costs, including utilities. It is anticipated that this number will continue to grow as many families living in or near poverty seek to find replacement housing in a market that was already under intense pressure for housing options prior to the hurricane.
Houston Branch employee Gisele Crouchet helps residents clean their flooded homes.
Rural communities across the impacted region face similar affordable-housing challenges. In Wharton, Texas—a city of roughly 8,800 residents with a median household income of approximately $33,000 (more than $20,000 less than the state median household income level)—nearly half of the city’s total housing stock was affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Following the storm, the Dallas Fed worked with nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and banks to identify potential solutions for housing repair, reconstruction and replacement needs within rural and urban communities along the Texas coast. Working in collaboration with numerous housing organizations, the Dallas Fed will remain a resource on housing strategy for years to come as it focuses on long-term recovery and resiliency for the residents of Southeast Texas.
Small businesses were among the hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey and have experienced significant challenges as they work to recover and reopen. Six months following Harvey, about 70 percent of the small businesses in the Gulf Coast city of Rockport are still closed, and uncertainty remains regarding how many will rebuild.1 Many small-business owners did not seek assistance or apply for available small-business loans, citing a fear of increased debt, misinformation about Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan products and a lack of adequate insurance coverage as primary reasons.
Working with banks and interagency partners, including the SBA and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, the Dallas Fed launched an awareness campaign to highlight grant and lending resources that financial institutions may make available to small businesses within their assessment areas. The Bank also worked with numerous local chambers of commerce to identify small businesses in need and connect them to financial institutions and CDFIs with available disaster-recovery resources.
As the region begins its long-term recovery, the Dallas Fed will continue to address the needs of low- and moderate-income individuals and communities across the Eleventh District. Greater interagency collaboration is vital, and the Dallas Fed will continue to provide leadership and play a significant role as a convener of people, organizations and businesses.
Key themes that have surfaced as a result of the Dallas Fed’s in-depth public engagement in the months following Hurricane Harvey include resident displacement fears, flood insurance availability, flood mitigation and equitable recovery.
The Dallas Fed’s report, “Seizing the Opportunity for Equitable and Inclusive Redevelopment,” highlights lessons from 2008’s Hurricane Ike that could provide helpful insight for communities rebuilding from Harvey.