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The Fair Housing Battleground Returns to Texas
"Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent a letter to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declaring that a city decision to table a mixed-income housing project in a wealthy neighborhood violates civil rights," reports Janine White.
Not only did HUD find that opposition to the development, located in the Galleria area of the city, "was motivated either in whole or in part by the race, color or national origin of the likely tenants," the federal agency also found that the decision reflects a common trend in the city. That is, "the way the city handles approvals of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit applications is 'influenced by racially motivated opposition to affordable housing and perpetuate[s] segregation.'"
Houston Public Media (HPM) reported on the controversy over the Galleria project earlier in January, noting that Mayor Sylvester Turner argued that the project was too expensive in a statement releases in response to the HUD letter. The HPM article includes both HUD's letter and Mayor Turner's response in full.
To add context to the debate about fair housing practices in Houston, Leah Binkovitz recently published an article for The Urban Edge that talks about the looming challenges to fair housing in Texas—with a new administration in power at HUD and examples like Houston's as evidence. According to Binkovitz, "a new report from the advocacy group Texas Low Income Housing Information Service shows that recent changes at the state level to better comply with federal fair housing standards were effective in locating new developments in less racially segregated, poor neighborhoods." At risk with the new regime in Washington, D.C. is progress, as evidenced by the Houston case study, on the controversial issue of fair housing.
Much of the fair housing actions of the Obama Administration's eight years and office have some connection to Texas, due to the Supreme Court ruling on the issue of disparate impact in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project. That decision was followed closely by HUD's announcement of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.