Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Region VI Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity announced today that the Texas Government Land Office (GLO) discriminated against communities of color in Southeast Texas when distributing over $4 billion in much-needed disaster mitigation funding. The decision is the result of an administrative complaint filed in June 2021 by NLIHC partners Texas Housers and the Northeast Action Collective.
“The lowest-income and most marginalized survivors are often hit hardest by disasters but receive the least amount of assistance to recover and protect against disasters in the future,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “HUD’s historic decision to enforce civil rights law and uphold its mandate to increase equity will help ensure that essential funding reaches those communities often left behind by America’s disaster recovery framework. The deep inequities in infrastructure created by decades of systemic underinvestment can only be rectified by a more equitable distribution of resources.”
In its decision, HUD found that Texas violated Title VI and Section 109 of the “Housing and Community Development Act of 1974” in its distribution of $4.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds. Some of these funds were provided by Congress to mitigate the risk of future disasters in areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. HUD found that Texas had distributed these funds through a competition that penalized areas with larger overall and larger non-white populations – those areas designated by HUD as most impacted – and favored inland counties with smaller, non-white populations designated as most impacted by the state. The number of people of color in those areas of Texas designated as most impacted by HUD is ten times greater than the number of people of color in areas designated as most impacted by the state, and eight times greater than the number of people of color in the state’s general population, yet the state created a project rating system that split funds evenly between the two areas. As a result, less-populous inland counties with greater numbers of white residents received seven and a half times more funding per resident than counties with larger overall and larger non-white populations.
Among other findings, the report shows that “Harris County and the City of Houston – the two jurisdictions with by far the largest numbers of residents who suffered harm from Hurricane Harvey (and each of whom have high future disaster risk as estimated by the GLO) – received no funds from the Competition.” Likewise, the report finds that “[f]our smaller jurisdictions within Harris County (which each submitted separate applications from the county as a whole) received awards totaling 90 million dollars, but those were the only funds from the Competition to go to residents of Houston or Harris County. Residents of Harris County (inclusive of the City of Houston, which is located in the County) comprise 51% of the total Competition eligible population yet received just 9% of the funds.”
Unless an appeal is filed, the GLO and HUD will attempt to resolve the issue via a voluntary agreement reworking the distribution of funds and creating an enhanced fair housing planning and monitoring reporting requirement.
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