Community Development

When Hurricane Ike hit Harris County, Texas, in 2008, the damage was substantial. The second costliest hurricane in America’s history destroyed a vast stretch of housing in the area, leaving thousands of people homeless and devastating local infrastructure. This created a host of challenges for public officials, not least of which was restoring access to water and electricity and rebuilding homes. Using funding from a Community Development Block Grant and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Harris County began its recovery process. Unfortunately, the county quickly encountered difficulties with contractors regarding code review and safety standards.

Efforts around the country to revitalize downtowns and create economically vital and aesthetically pleasing communities, often centered on transit hubs, have created a greater need for a private-public entity that can manage these areas to ensure their long-term sustainability. While most states have laws on the books to enable these special districts, some experts say they are still too difficult to establish and that some of the decades-old laws may need to evolve to reflect the expanding mission of these districts and the changing nature of the communities they serve.