Excuse the inconvenience, we are merging our blog and website

Please excuse the the empty pages and strange links on our blog site texashousiners.net.

We are merging our several web sites with our blog. The process will (hopefully) be complete in a few weeks and will make information and news about affordable housing and community development in Texas easier to find.

We welcome your suggestions and feedback through the comment button.

Meet Elizabeth, the Texas Tenant Advisor, and the Texas Housing Counselor

This blog post is by Elizabeth Nowrouz.

Hello all, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Elizabeth Nowrouz, and I’m one of the Americorps members serving at Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. Relatively new to this position as well as the state of Texas (I hail from Virginia), I’m learning a great deal each day about the fight for fair, affordable and decent housing for all Texans.

The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service offers a wealth of information for those searching for housing or in need of information on housing issues across the board. Online, two incredibly helpful resources are the Texas Housing Counselor and the Texas Tenant Advisor. Full links to both of those sites may be found at the bottom of this post.

First, our online Housing Counselor allows those in need of housing to enter their pertinent information into our interactive database, which will compile a list of apartment complexes and properties that meet their requirements. The Counselor uses information such as income level, ages of residents, and whether or not the residents have a disability to match them with potential properties. I am working presently to compile all of this year’s data to update the Counselor with the most recent figures available and to make it even more informative and user-friendly.

The Tenant Advisor website is an excellent resource to learn more about their rights as tenants. It offers sections on many different aspects of tenancy as well as suggested solutions to common conflicts related to housing. The Tenant Advisor is not intended to be a personalized for each individual, but a broad set of guidelines and potential issues that tenants might face. It is divided into three sections, each dedicated to: knowing your rights, fighting back against possible wrongdoing, and preventing problems and complications.

In addition to explanations of Texas housing laws, the Tenant Advisor site also features several video clips with attorney Robert Doggett, who expands upon and clarifies various housing law topics. We are working to add animated scenarios of common conflicts and potential resolutions, such as roommate disagreements and disputes over security deposits.

I hope to be posting here on the Texas Housers blog at least once a week, and covering a range of topics in those posts. A distinct portion of my Americorps service is targeted toward advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, so, in addition to covering other topics, I look forward to expanding that discussion here at the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service.

Housing Counselor: http://texashousingcounselor.org/

Tenant Advisor: http://texastenant.org

Join us for the 2010 Texas (Fair) Housing Awards

“Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice…Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, 1967

On Thursday, December 9th, the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service will honor three individuals who have upheld civil rights in housing: the “fair housing” promise of housing opportunities for all, regardless of race, income, family status or disability.

These honorees are: Michael Daniel (Daniel & Beshara, P.C.), Michael Gerber (Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs), and Jean Langendorf (Easter Seals of Central Texas).

We are celebrating these Housers with a barbecue luncheon at Saengerrunde Hall in Austin, adjacent to the Scholz Garden (1607 San Jacinto St.) from noon to 1:30 pm. Tickets are $35 each. A contribution of $125 or more provides donors two seats and a listing in the program, while a sponsorship of over $1,000 or more gives you a table for six at the event, and prominent program listing.  To reserve a seat or make a donation, contact Karen Paup at 512-477-8910 or at karen@texashousing.org.

TxLIHIS believes that the broader pursuit of housing justice will fail unless this pursuit incorporates the principles of fair housing. This is why we chose this year to honor those who are not afraid of this difficult, and often intense issue. In over 20 years of housing advocacy, we have seen one common factor underlying the disparities in education, employment, income and public services: residential segregation. Hurricane devastation in recent years, and patterns of rebuilding on the Texas Gulf Coast and South Texas have revealed these disparities as so stark, and so extreme, that the public and policymakers can no longer ignore the widespread failure to enforce fair housing law.

It is time to recognize those who have not ignored the fair housing challenge, but have worked to protect the civil rights of Texans to live in a decent home, in a high-opportunity neighborhood, and to replace inequality, discrimination and segregation with genuine inclusion. These Housers are to thank for progress toward fair housing for racial and ethnic minorities in the inner city, for low-income disaster survivors, and for people with disabilities.

Please join us Thursday, December 9th as we celebrate their work and challenge ourselves to live by the words of Martin Luther King and break the “tragic walls” that separate “wealth and comfort” from “poverty and despair.”

Fighting bigotry and poverty, perfecting government is a mandate of the Declaration of Independence

DeclarationJuly 4, 2009 – I’m grateful and challenged to live in the United States.

We are placed where we are today by historical events. I understand that the power of the Declaration of Independence has placed me where I am today in life. The power I feel from the Declaration is not simply inspirational. I feel the power of the Declaration on shaping what I believe most deeply and on what I feel compelled to do.

The Declaration launched our country on an experiment in self governing democracy. It demands of us that we engage actively in the experiment. If enough of our citizens give up on active engagement in the experimentation, I believe our country will die.

It is easy to superficially embrace the truth of our Declaration’s preamble declaring the self evident truth that all men are created equal. But a truth unseen is no longer a truth that is realized, and the truth of the equality of man is constantly threatened to be buried in the oppression of bigotry and poverty. I believe we are all called on to actively and aggressively fight the forces of bigotry and poverty to ensure that the equal nature of all men remains self-evident and alive in our own time.

The power I feel from the Declaration lies in the way it demands that we use the tool of government to realize the truths about the nature, rights, dignity and freedom of mankind.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This is not a declaration that says, “Here is this new democratic system of government so sit back, celebrate and enjoy it.” Instead the Declaration pushes us to take action. To secure our rights we instituted this government and we have to actively alter or even abolish it to effect our safety and happiness. To engage with and struggle to shape our government is our ongoing calling.

I feel the special power of the Declaration of Independence to place me where I am today in my life. I see all around me others who feel and act on that power also. We fight against the oppression of poverty and work to perfect our government to positively effect the safety and happiness of the people. We do these things through the power and the duty we were endowed with by the Declaration of Independence.

My excuse for a irregular blogging – bill filing deadline

Regular readers of this blog have doubtless noticed the slowdown in postings over the past week. This is been due to the frantic pace of action that accompanies bill filing deadline at the Texas Legislature.

The Texas Legislature convenes only once every two years and then for a period that lasts only from mid-January to the end of May. The first month or so little happens as members wait for their committee assignments. In the background bills are being drafted. And then the sprint is on to beat the bill filing deadline of mid-March.

The deadline this year came last Friday, March 13.

The volume of bills related to affordable housing this session has been truly staggering. The mortgage and foreclosure crisis has resonated deeply at the Texas Capitol. We have been approached by dozens of members to provide information and background as they attempt to craft solutions to keep people in their homes.

Our three big projects have been to develop a long-term, stable funding source for the Texas housing trust fund, to solve the problems that have blocked affordable housing programs from effectively reaching small towns and rural communities in Texas, and to develop new initiatives and housing programs for the elderly, persons with disabilities and the homeless, capitalizing upon the additional funds being made available to the state through the Economic Stimulus Bill.

Anyway, all that came to a head as bills were filed last week. And all of that work has kept me from blogging is regularly as I would’ve liked. I’d like to say that I will get back on schedule but I suspect that postings at this site will come and go in spurts as we are asked to work with members of the Legislature to provide them background information and to testify on bills.

We’ll do our best in the coming week or two to post something describing the major housing legislation. So hang in there with us until we get back into a regular routine when the legislature adjourns at the end of May.