Homeowners speak out against Harris County’s Mandatory Flood Buyout Program
In the Allen Field neighborhood in northeast Harris County, home after home along Darjean Street is now part of the mandatory flood buyout program.
Thirteen homes in Dolores Mendoza’s immediate family were devastated after Hurricane Harvey.
“I was shocked and pissed off like, ‘What do you mean you’re taking my house?’” said Mendoza.
Mendoza’s family has lived in this neighborhood for six generations. She said more should have been done to fix the infrastructure in the neighborhood.
She said it’s not fair she and her family members are now being forced to leave.
The county says the program is designed to move families out of areas that flood repeatedly.
Mendoza said she can move, but she’s worried about her grandmother and other elderly family and neighbors.
“She’s on a fixed income, she doesn’t have income. What are you going to do with her? Put her in a mortgage? She can’t afford that,” says Mendoza.
Shirley Ronquillo has helped many of these families through the process.
Many are mostly Latino and of mixed status. Many did not understand the legal jargon and also needed help with translation.
Some improvements have been made to the program, but Ronquillo said it’s not enough.
“Six generations of people are going to be torn apart because of this buyout, because of the negligence, of the historical negligence of our previous administrations and the lack of support for communities of color,” says Shirley Ronquillo, with the organization Houston Department of Transformation.
According to Harris County, there are seven buyout areas with just under 400 homes that are part of the program.
Homeowners are paid market value for their homes and are given money to relocate.
“It has demonstrated a need for us to do things differently and that is very much increasing the level of communication and being sensitive to the language and necessities of the communities who would be impacted, and providing information in a variety of different formats,” said Dr. Adrienne Holloway with Harris County Community Services.
So far, 87 offers have been made and 26 offers have been accepted.
The county has until August of 2024 to complete all of the buyouts or it will lose the grant money for the program.