Good Government

Federal disaster aid pays for housing study

March 28, 2016

Trent England

An article about residential real estate in Friday’s Oklahoman shows the need for greater scrutiny of the federal funds flowing into state and local governments. Citizens might assume that federal disaster relief goes to the victims of disasters. It turns out some of the funds triggered by the 2013 Moore tornado have gone to a handful of private consultants and to the University of Oklahoma.

Last year, the Oklahoma legislature passed HB 1748 to require state agencies to disclose the mandates that come with federal government funding. Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the bill. A measure to increase transparency of how federal dollars are spent by state agencies, SB 1342, recently passed the Oklahoma Senate and is awaiting action in the House of Representatives.

The Oklahoman reports on a $500,000 study of the Oklahoma City area’s residential real estate market and growth trends. As it turns out, a growing population means a need for more places for people to live. And though the study was “commissioned by the state Commerce Department and the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency,” more interesting is the source of the funds:

The research was paid for with federal disaster recovery funds made available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development after the 2013 Moore tornado and originating with the response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

So half a million dollars of federal disaster aid went to two private consulting firms, DeBruler Inc. and Integra Realty Resources Inc., as well as the University of Oklahoma’s school of central planning (the College of Architecture’s “Division of Regional and City Planning”). No wonder, despite support from most Oklahomans, some state government officials are desperate to prevent greater transparency for federal spending.