The GLO recently announced how it would distribute the billions in federal funds received following Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston and Harris County. How is it possible that they ignored Houston/Harris County when distributing these funds? They used a formula that assesses the impact of projects by calculating the share of residents of the jurisdiction served by a particular project. This will clearly favor projects in smaller jurisdictions. It will also make it highly unlikely that areas whose pre-disaster stormwater infrastructure was clearly substandard–areas more often found in neighborhoods of color in large cities–will be unlikely to receive funds.
CRP graduate students in Professor Mueller’s Practicum course this spring worked on three projects developed in collaboration with Texas Housers all aimed at addressing inequities in stormwater infrastructure in Houston, Texas. We are pleased to share the results of their work here.
Stormwater Infrastructure in Kashmere Gardens, Houston, Texas.
Research team: Tressa Olsen, Mitch Ford, Nafisa Iskandar, Todd Podbielski
This team reviewed the city’s proposal to the Texas General Land Office for upgrading Kashmere Gardens’ historically inadequate infrastructure. They assessed issues of concern rooted in the area’s existing low level of infrastructure service and also the needs left unaddressed by the proposal. They produced an Executive Summary of their findings, a full report, Frequently Asked Questions document, and an infographic providing a timeline of the neighborhood’s history of flooding and disinvestment. You can also watch their presentation here. You can find a press release on their findings here.
Citywide Stormwater Infrastructure Inequities in Houston, Texas
Research team: Tatum Troutt, Sean Conway, Anita Machiavello, Cameron Christie, Luisa Milani
This team used data received from the City of Houston Public Works Department through a Public information Request to assess how Kashmere Gardens compares to two other Houston Super Neighborhoods (Meyerland and Greater Heights) in terms of the capacity and quality of stormwater infrastructure. They produced an online Storymap illustrating differences in stormwater infrastructure and investments across the three communities, using maps, photos and data; an executive summary of their key findings, a press release, and an infographic overview of flooding history and existing infrastructure. You can watch their final presentation here.
Transparency and Accountability in the Use of Disaster Recovery Funds
Research team: Abbey Judd, Sidney Beaty, Jessica Jones, Patrick Bauer
This team assessed how projects put forward for disaster recovery funding are identified and how equity is considered and when and how public input has been used in these processes. Their press release and executive summary present their key findings. The full report presents them in context and provides greater detail. You can watch their final presentation here.
This work would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of several organizations and individuals and we would like to recognize and thank them here. We thank our colleague Professor Katherine Lieberknecht, whose fall Urban Ecology course laid the groundwork for the analysis of the proposal to improve infrastructure in Kashmere Gardens and who made the request for data that we relied on. We thank Graduate Research Assistant Jessica Gay who helped organize and shepherd our use of the data we received. And we thank Bill and Shawn Jackson, whose funding support allowed us to pay for the time it took to fulfill the data request and to support Jessica’s work.
Finally, we give sincere thanks to those working on these issues in Houston (and elsewhere) who generously shared their time with us via Zoom! They include Chrishelle Calhoun-Palay, from the HOME Coalition, Maddie Sloan, from Texas Appleseed, Julia Orduna, Adam Pirtle, John Henneberger, and Zoe Middleton at Texas Housers, and John Rammler at the NJ Fair Share Housing Center. We also appreciate the time that stormwater infrastructure experts–both at the City of Houston and elsewhere–took to respond to our questions about storm water infrastructure.