City Housing Department Ramps up to Deliver on Harvey Recovery
Houston – The city’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) added five disaster recovery, affordable housing and finance experts to its already disaster-seasoned staff. Together the team will focus on meeting the extensive short-term housing needs of Hurricane Harvey survivors and preparing for the long-term federal disaster recovery funds expected to be available to Houston in late summer.
“Full recovery takes time and resources,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Harvey was a storm of historic proportions. We have to ramp up if we are to meet the needs of our residents who still cannot return to their homes.”
HCDD Director Tom McCasland agreed and said the department strategically selected the new staff to fill gaps and increase capacity in the fields of finance, disaster recovery, policy development, constituent services and compliance. “These are all areas crucial to our ability to deliver the programs that will get our neighbors impacted by Harvey home again as quickly as possible,” McCasland said.
Joining HCDD are:
- Mayra Bontemps as assistant director of Recovery and Public Services. Bontemps’ expertise is with federally funded affordable housing and community development property acquisition, development, construction and management. Through previous positions with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Tejano Center for Community Concerns and Harris County Community Services Department, among others, she has also worked with homeless services and disaster recovery initiatives.
- Ellen Eudy as chief financial officer over Finance and Procurement. Eudy’s previous experience as CFO with the Women’s Home and New Hope Housing, as well as in the private sector, gives her a wealth of knowledge on affordable housing and vulnerable populations, as well as experience with complicated finance structures that include HUD funds, housing tax credits, new market tax credits, Federal Home Loan bank funds and bonds.
- Sarah Labowitz as senior advisor for disaster recovery, responsible for developing strategies and policies for recovery and for coordinating the planning efforts for a comprehensive housing plan that will also address disaster recovery and fair housing. Labowitz is a former policy advisor in Human Rights and Cyber for the U.S. Department of State, and co-founder and former co-director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. Most recently, she was interim director of Houston Rising, where she focused on ensuring equity in disaster recovery efforts.
- Ray Miller, who is overseeing the department’s Public Facilities, Multifamily and Commercial divisions. Miller was previously at Capital One Bank as vice president within the Community Finance Department. He specialized in financing affordable housing developments with conventional and agency loan products, along with the purchase of low income housing tax credits throughout the state of Texas.
- Laurie Vignuad as assistant director of HCDD’s Single Family and Economic Development divisions. Previously at Capital One, Vignaud was president of the bank’s Community Development Corporation and senior vice president / senior director of Community Development Banking. These roles gave her a wealth of experience developing, monitoring and promoting affordable housing, economic development and community development programs, as well as asset development programs for low- and moderate-income individuals.
These professionals join an executive team whose leadership has a combined 50-plus years of city experience, including work on Houston’s three federally declared disasters that preceded Harvey. This team includes:
- Deputy Director Keith Bynam, who oversees HCDD’s Monitoring and Compliance Division which tracks the department’s programs and projects after implementation to ensure they meet the requirements and regulations of all funding sources.
- Deputy Assistant Director Derek Sellers, who heads the Planning and Grants Management Division which writes the grant applications, action plans, citizen participation plans and performance reports required for all the department’s federally funded grants.
- Deputy Assistant Director Melody Barr, who leads the department’s Public Services Division which funds both disaster and non-disaster homelessness programs, as well as a multitude of other programs assisting the city’s most vulnerable populations.
- Deputy Assistant Director Yaw Temeng, head of HCDD’s Single Family Division which administers home repair and homebuyer assistance programs for Houston’s low- to moderate-income families.
“The additional expertise, with the support of an experienced team that has diligently worked to support affordable housing and home repair before, during and since Harvey, shows that HCDD is not only up to the task of disaster recovery, it overwhelmingly embraces it,” McCasland said.