HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Houston announced it’s received a $1.8 million grant to support its efforts to become more resilient to events like natural disasters but also to ongoing socio-economic issues like aging infrastructure and unemployment.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as the city continues recovering from Hurricane Harvey’s devastating flooding last year.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said Houston has been accepted into the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program.
The program offers financial and logistical support to member cities to help them develop proactive plans to deal with shocks and stresses from both natural disasters and negative socio-economic trends like aging infrastructure and high unemployment.
Turner said the initiative will help Houston make the most of the billions of federal dollars that have been allocated after Harvey through advice and help from other members on rebuilding efforts.
In the Houston area, more than 150,000 homes were flooded during Harvey. A year after the storm, many residents are still not back in their homes or are living in partially-repaired houses that, in many cases, are mold infested and unsafe.
The 100 Resilient Cities program will pay for a chief resilience officer for the next two years who will help coordinate resilience efforts across the city tied to Harvey. The resilience officer will also work in other areas the city would like to improve, including affordable housing and supporting lower income neighborhoods.
“Harvey was one example. There will be others,” Turner said. “Sometimes they will simply come with what’s happening within our neighborhoods.”
The $1.8 million fee to take part in the resilient cities initiative was paid for by a grant from Shell Oil.
Bruce Culpepper, the president of Houston-based Shell Oil, said the grant was part of his company’s commitment to help the city as it recovers from Harvey. Shell has about 11,000 active employees and 9,000 pensioners in the Houston area.
“The city of Houston … recognizes that building long term resiliency is much more than immediate disaster response,” Culpepper said. “It’s about enabling the people of our city and our area to thrive.”
Resilient Cities President Michael Berkowitz said his organization is focused on helping cities learn how to adapt and survive disasters, and grow in both good and bad times.
He said it’s critical to help cities become more resilient because by 2050, 75 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas.
“That’s really what resilience is about. It’s not just about being prepared for the next disaster. Rather it lies in strengthening the city as a whole and addressing the interrelated challenges that weaken the urban fabric,” Berkowitz said.
The 100 Resilient Cities initiative was created in 2013 and has in its membership U.S. cities, including Atlanta and Seattle, as well as cities from around the world, including Paris and Nairobi, Kenya.
Following Harvey, dozens of people made their way to North Texas for temporary shelter and some stayed for months.
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