Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 – “Our struggle for freedom was a collective effort… It is in your hands to create a better world

“We hold it as an inviolable principle that racism must be opposed by all the means that humanity has at its disposal. Wherever it occurs it has the potential to result in a systematic and comprehensive denial of human rights to those who are discriminated against. This is because all racism is inherently a challenge to human rights, because it denies the view that every human being is a person of equal worth with any other, because it treats entire peoples as subhuman.”

Statement at a Special Meeting of the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid, New York.June 22, 1990

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom. The steps that are needed from the developed nations are clear.”

Speech Delivered at Live 8, Johannesburg, July 2, 2005


“Its Westchester on steroids”: HUD finds Dallas in non-compliance with fair housing laws, seeks sweeping remedies

Dallas skyline
Dallas skyline (Photo credit: dherrera_96)

“Its Westchester on steroids,” is how one civil rights advocate characterized HUD’s findings against the City of Dallas, referring to the landmark 2009 fair housing case against Westchester County, NY.

On November 22 HUD issued the result of a forty-five month investigation of the City of Dallas which concluded…

Based on the evidence obtained during the investigation, the Department has determined that the City of Dallas (“Recipient” or “the City”) is in noncompliance with Title VI, 24 C.F.R. Part I, Section 504, 24 C.F.R. Part 8, and Section 109, 24 C.F.R. Part 6 with respect to the allegations raised by 1600 Pacific, L. P. (“the Complainant” or “1600 Pacific”). Further, the City certified that its programs would be conducted and administered in conformity with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000a et seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794, Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, 42 U.S.C. §5309, and Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. (“civil rights laws”).

The sweeping findings of Dallas’ multiple civil rights violations came in response to a complaint filed by Washington, DC- based civil rights attorney Michael Allen, who brought the successful 2009 federal lawsuit against Westchester County, New Yprk. The Dallas complaint was filed by Allen on behalf of 1600 Pacific LP, a partnership that sought unsuccessfully to develop an affordable housing development in downtown Dallas.

The 29 page letter of findings presents a fascinating and sordid account of the actions of City of Dallas officials.  But it is the wide-ranging nature of the violations of federal civil rights statutes on which the finding is based that is especially notable. The remedies that HUD proposes are expansive…

Based on the information set forth above, the Department concludes that the Recipient is in noncompliance with Title VI of the 1964 civil Rights Act, Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The Department will be in contact with the City to discuss voluntary resolution of the issues raised in this finding. As part of such voluntary resolution, HUD will seek that the city: 

• Develop a written long-term strategy to address siting of housing throughout Dallas that will address patterns of segregation and affirmatively further fair housing, including consideration of regional housing needs and opportunities, and include the strategy in an updated Analysis of Impediments.

• Adopt an Ordinance requiring any housing project funded through public subsidy including CDBG, TIF, and Federal Tax Credit, accept Housing Choice Vouchers or other types of publically subsidized rental assistance (e.g., HOME vouchers) in at least 25% of available units. This Ordinance or an alternative Ordinance should also prohibit the denial of applicants based upon source of income and require that ability to pay should be based on the tenant portion of the rent.

• Fund a project within the DC TIF District or Downtown Business Center that includes at least 51% of its units being offered at an affordable rate. Those affordable units should include rental structures that make units available to persons at 50% AMFI and at 80% AMFI. The proportion of the affordable units can be evenly split or can be weighted more heavily to 50% AMFI.

• Update its Section 108 loan program to more clearly reflect the program requirements, especially the national objective of 51% and monitor compliance with those requirements.

• Conduct an audit of all 108 funded housing developments to identify those developments that are not in compliance with program requirements for affordability and bring these developments into compliance.

• Encourage the development of affordable multi-family housing in areas of non-minority concentration and areas of greater economic opportunity by providing tax abatement and encouraging developers to organizations that counsel low and very low income person, including Inclusive Communities, Inc. and the resources it has to provide to them.

• Conduct a comprehensive study of the unincorporated areas of the County to determine the minimum infrastructure improvements and services necessary to create an environment equal to that enjoyed by residents living in the incorporated areas of the County (trash collection, water and sewer hookups, adequate drinking water, roads, lighting, etc.)

• Develop a 10-year plan aimed at providing infrastructure improvements and services necessary for the unincorporated areas of Dallas to function at the same level as the incorporated areas of the County.

• Provide relief for complainant consistent with the evidence.

HUD’s findings are yet another indication of the Obama Administration’s willingness to enforce civil rights and fair housing statues that have long been ignored. It is a welcome step forward for civil rights and fair housing for Dallas with implications for many other Texas cities as well.

The City of Dallas has 30 days to appeal the HUD ruling.

Thanksgiving check-in on the homeless in Texas — maybe intractable social problems can be solved after all

It seems that Thanksgiving is one of the few times many people worry about the homeless. Let’s join the crowd and take a look at the numbers of homeless in Texas.

The data comes from a HUD report  The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. First, s word of caution about the numbers. They are not very reliable. As HUD puts it, “Communities are continuously improving their data collection methods, and thus year-to-year comparisons may not perfectly reflect annual changes in homelessness within the community. ”  The data is collected by local agencies on a single night in January each year and reported to HUD. Finding and counting homeless people is not easy and the results and coverages are inconsistent. That said however, the report is useful in seeing the trend.

The report offers encouraging news about homelessness in the nation and in Texas.  The number of homeless people appears to be declining. Texas saw a 13 percent decrease since 2012 and a nearly 26 percent decrease since 2007. That is 10,173 fewer people homeless in Texas over the past six years! Nationally from 2010 to 2013 there has been a decline in the number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness of 16 percent, or 17,219 people. This comes following a major effort to provide housing for the homeless during both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

So, the next time you hear others say that government action cannot solve social problems, you can point to this apparent success.

On the night the survey was conducted in January 2013, there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness in the United States, including 394,698 people who were homeless in sheltered locations and 215,344 people who were living in unsheltered locations.

There are 29,615 homeless people reported in Texas (5% of the US total). This includes 20,758 homeless people living as individuals and 8,857 living in families. 5,535 of the Texas homeless are described as “chronically homeless” meaning they have either been continuously homeless for 1 year or more or has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last 3 years. Veterans make up 3,878 of the Texas homeless. unaccompanied children or youth (<25 years old) comprise 2,072.

The Texas Tribune has a handy webpage that provides access to the numbers from the report for different Texas cities over a number of years. I pulled the following data for 2007 and 2013 from there.

TABLE A: 2007 and 2013 Data
City                 2007 Homeless  2013 Homeless   Change
Amarillo                     431            516       +16%
Austin                     5,281          2,090       -60%
Beaumont/Port Arthur         710          1,046       +32%
Bryan/College Station        289            175       -39%
Dallas & County            3,408          3,163        -7%
El Paso                    1,241          1,217        -2%
Fort Worth/Tarrant County  2,876          2,390       -17%
Houston/Harris County     10,363          6,359       -39%
San Antonio/Bexar County   2,247          2,980       +25%
Waco/McLennan County         431            295       -32%
Wichita Falls                263            302       +13%
The rest of Texas         10,636          9,082       -15%

There are a number of measures for how well a community is doing in ending  homelessness. The main one is whether there fewer people homeless. As we have noted, for the state as a whole that is the case. As Table A (above) shows the results are radically different across major metro areas. The numbers of homeless have plumeted 60% in Austin and 39% in Houston and Bryan/College Station while increasing 32% in Beaumont/Port Arthur and 25% in San Antonio.

TABLE B: 2013 Data
City                      Homeless  Sheltered  Unsheltered  Chronic
Amarillo                     516       468        48  (9%)    122
Austin                     2,090     1,325       765 (36%)    458
Beaumont/Port Arthur       1,046       376       670 (64%)    159
Bryan/College Station        175       136        39 (22%)     28
Dallas & County            3,163     2,912       251  (8%)    502
El Paso                    1,217     1,036       181 (15%)    131
Fort Worth/Tarrant County  2,390     2,109       281 (12%)    226
Houston/Harris County      6,359     3,381     2,978 (47%)  1,309
San Antonio/Bexar County   2,980     1,737     1,243 (42%)    621 
Waco/McLennan County         295       230        65 (22%)     39 
Wichita Falls                302       253        49 (16%)     86 
The rest of Texas          9,082     3,562     5,520 (61%)  1,863

A second measure is the percentage of the homeless population living in the community who are sheltered. I calculated in Table B (above) the percentage of homeless persons sheltered. It is clear that Dallas and Amarillo are doing the best job and Houston, San Antonio and Beaumont/Port Arthur are doing the worst.

The place that really is falling short is the area of Texas outside the large metropolitan areas where 61% of the homeless are not sheltered. HUD points this out in this year’s report. Texas ranks third worst among all states in sheltering homeless in non-metro areas.

I don’t claim to be a homeless expert but here is how I interpret this data.

  1. Austin has somehow managed to dramatically reduce its homeless population, with Bryan/College Station and Houston also doing well in this regard.
  2. Dallas intervention strategies for the homeless, led by the Mayor through the outstanding facility called The Bridge are working and other cities should pay attention to what Dallas is doing.
  3. Houston and San Antonio need to take another look at their strategies because they clearly are falling short.
  4. The State needs to help get the homeless in the non-metro areas housed because current strategies are not working.
  5. Overall, there is real progress being made nationally and in Texas (assuming these numbers can be believed). It shows that what are conceived as intractable social problems can be addressed it the country has the will to take them on.
  6. Chronic affordable housing problems in the nation and in Texas dwarf the numbers of the homeless. While Texas has 29,615 homeless people it has 597,941 extremely low-income households (probably more than 1.5 million persons who rent their homes and are paying more than half of their meager income for rent. Texas has an additional 297,712 extremely low-income, owner occupied households (approximately 900,000 people) with a substandard housing condition or overcrowding problem. These impoverished Texans living with severe housing problems are 81 times the number of persons currently homeless in Texas. While the number of homeless is declining, the number of Texas with housing problems is growing rapidly. Addressing their needs as we continue to make progress on the homeless problem is vital to Texas.

Jacob Riis: “Why should a man have a better right to kill his neighbor with a house than with an ax in the street?”

Reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wonderful new book, The Bully PulpitTheodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism I am struck by how powerful the relationship between a journalist and a political leader can be to create social change. The collision of a problem explained in a compelling manner with a political leader who is receptive to reform occasionally produces the nuclear fusion of social change.

Goodwin documents this phenomena in her description of the relationship of reporter Jacob Riis and Theodore Roosevelt…

The years [Riis] spent covering fires, murders and robberies in the immigrant slums fostered a keen awareness of the devastating conditions confronting families in these tenement districts. “The sights I saw there,” he recalled,”gripped my heart until I felt I must tell of them or burst or turn anarchist or something.”

In newspaper exposé Riis described overcrowded, unsanitary tenements with insufficient light and air, often the properties of absentee owners who neglected repairs and necessary improvements. …

“Why,” he asked, “should a man have a better right to kill his neighbor with a house than with an ax in the street?” “The remedy,” he concluded “must proceed from the public conscience.”

How The Other Half Lives, Riis’ first book, was published in 1890. This visceral account traced the daily struggles he witnessed in the Italian tenements, the Jewish quarters and the bohemian ghetto. …

Theodore Roosevelt had read How The Other Half Lives while he was Civil Service Commissioner, calling it both an enlightenment and an inspiration, he was convinced the book would “go a long way to removing the ignorance of comfortable New Yorkers about the hardships confronting their less fortunate neighbors.” Furthermore, he was hopeful that Riis’ disclosures would engender a new spirit of reform. Roosevelt found the tone of the book particularly admirable, lauding the manner in which Riis revealed social ills without stridency, never descending into hysterical negativity or sentimental excess.

When intrigued by the work of a writer or journalist Roosevelt often endeavored to establish a personal connection. He called on Riis at the Evening Sun, finding him out of the office, Roosevelt left a card with a succinct message that he had read the book and had “come to help.” …

“He had the most flaming intensity of passion for righteousness,” Roosevelt recalled. “Never a mere preacher he was among the few whose convictions proved a touchstone for action.” In Riis, Roosevelt found a man who looked at life and its problems from substantially the same standpoint as he did: a moderate reformer seeking to rectify social ills through moral conviction and suasion.

Undelivered Kennedy speech denounces “nonsense” of deficit fears “wholly unrelated to reality”

In the course of thinking about President Kennedy’s assassination fifty years ago last evening I read the speech Kennedy was scheduled to deliver on the afternoon of November 22, 1963 in Dallas. Much of the speech is related to the Cold War. But I was startled to read a portion of the speech that could have been delivered today.

The proper role of government in our society is a political issue that has been with us for a long time.

“But today other voices are heard in the land — voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they [view] that debt as the single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.”

“We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.”

– text from President John F. Kennedy’s undelivered speech in Dallas, TX, November 22, 1963

New proposed HUD Fair Housing Rule released


Today HUD posted it’s long awaited new rules regarding how local and state governments affirmatively further fair housing. These rules are subject to a public comment period before they take effect. The comment period will begin soon.


The new rules propose to alter the process that state and local governments follow to comply with fair housing requirements.  If adopted they will significantly and positively impact housing. TxLIHIS is tremendously excited by the rule’s potential for expanding fair housing and equal treatment in housing and community development.


This is a long overdue, real, positive change towards expanded civil rights and equal opportunity in housing and neighborhoods.