San Benito residence marks a first for Texas GLO program

Texas GLO Senior Deputy Director Heather Lagrone hands over the keys to the renovated home at 733 Freddy Fender Lane to owners Miguel and Dahlia Rodriguez. (Rick Kelley | Valley Morning Star)

SAN BENITO — The first house refurbished under the Texas General Land Office’s Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement programs was handed over to the owners here Monday at 733 Freddy Fender Lane.

And the house, heavily damaged by flooding, turned into a real beauty.

“This is our first homeowner assistance and reimbursement program home and it is a two-part program,” said Brittany Eck, communications director for Disaster Recovery at Texas GLO. “During Hurricane Harvey we administered the Homeowners Assistance Program and the Homeowner Reimbursement Program separately. We have combined them for the funding that we received for the 2018 and 2019 disasters, which here in the Rio Grande Valley there are three eligible counties (Cameron, Willacy and Hidalgo) and then Jim Wells as well.”

As of Friday, 666 total applications for assistance and reimbursement had been filed by homeowners in the Rio Grande Valley.

Eck said the application process for homeowners to apply at the Texas GLO website at has been streamlined and is easier to navigate. She said funding is still available and urged homeowners with flood-damage expenses to their properties to apply.

Eck said the home on Freddy Fender Lane at the corner of 77 Sunshine Strip, owned by Miguel and Dahlia Rodriguez, was a full reconstruction after it was determined mere repairs wouldn’t be enough.

Funding came from the GLO allocating $137.8 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing and reimbursement recovery following severe flooding in 2018 and 2019 in South Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

“The land was so low here that water went straight through the back part,” Dahlia Rodriguez said. “And there was so much stuff under the house, debris stuff, but all the water went up and all the debris, and it just sat there for days.”

“A little bit came in and it went down the next day but what I really noticed was all that has been up there and it rotted all the wood all around the whole house,” she added.

The Rodriguezes were reimbursed for their complete rehab their two-bedroom, two-bath home. The funding limits the reimbursement outlay on each homeowner to $50,000, Eck said.

“This is awesome because they get to pick out the colors, the finishes, all those type things, so they get very excited it once it’s all together,” Eck said.

Dahlia Rodriguez said it means the couple can stay right in the same home in which her husband grew up.

“He’s been here for life, he’s never moved,” Dahlia said. “This house, his dad built the whole house, in pieces. And we didn’t have electricity in some parts of the house. We had to run cords all over the place. It was old.”

It’s fully wired now, with central air and heating, too.

“It makes a lot of difference for us,” said Miguel Rodriguez.