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Old Posted Jan 17, 2017, 12:22 PM
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Feds Find Houston's Housing Policies Perpetuate Segregation

In a blistering letter sent to Mayor Sylvester Turner last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded that the City of Houston has perpetuated segregation by allowing “racially motivated opposition” to affordable housing projects dictate the city’s decisions about where to build them.

As a result, the feds have found Houston to be in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964..

HUD’s investigation of Houston’s housing policies was sparked by Turner’s rejection of the Houston Housing Authority’s proposed affordable housing project in the Galleria area, at 2640 Fountain View Drive — a proposal that was “a key component of HHA’s plan to begin to remedy the legacy of segregation in its housing programs,” as the feds described it. The apartment building would include 20 percent of units at market rate, 70 percent for families earning 60 percent below the median income, and 10 percent to families earning 30 percent or less of the median income.

In order for housing projects that use Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to proceed, City Council must vote to issue a Resolution of No Objection — yet Mayor Turner refused to even put it to a vote. He chalked his actions up to “costs and other concerns” — yet the feds contend that Turner’s reasoning was unsupported by facts and that instead, the city gave into the will of the people, without any checks and balances in place to protect against a racially motivated will.

The project had ignited a storm of fierce opposition from neighbors in the area, who organized a mass email campaign imploring elected officials to halt the project. The neighbors even started a website called Last March, hundreds of them showed up at a meeting the HHA held to express concerns about the Fountain View project, which included a higher crime rate, increased traffic congestion, school overcrowding and a decrease in property values.

HUD issued a list of remedies and corrective actions it expects the city to comply with — including providing funds to supplement HHA’s costs for construction of the Fountain View project, or one in another low-minority, high-opportunity area. The federal government also expects Houston to develop policies that encourage the discontinuation of segregation and the clustering of affordable housing in areas plagued by poverty. In addition, HUD has directed the city to adopt objective criteria to aid it in approving Resolutions of No Objection for low-income housing that extends beyond local opposition.

Despite the fact that HUD has the authority to refer this matter to the U.S. Department of Justice should the City of Houston fail to comply, Mayor Turner said the city will “utilize all available avenues to challenge their findings.”
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