Statement on our Fair Housing settlement with the State of Texas

HUD ACCEPTS $1.7 BILLION REVISED DISASTER RECOVERY PLAN PRIORITIZING REBUILDING HOMES OF SURVIVORS

An historic agreement between affordable housing advocates, HUD and the State of Texas redirects hundreds of millions in federal disaster recovery funds to benefit low-income survivors and devastated communities while ensuring fair housing opportunities.

Austin, TX – In an historic victory for equitable disaster recovery, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today agreed to a revised $1.7 billion Texas disaster recovery plan that prioritizes rebuilding the homes of survivors most in need. The revised plan is the result of a formal settlement agreement between the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (TxLIHIS), Texas Appleseed (Appleseed) and the State of Texas. The complaint argued that the state’s disaster recovery plan shortchanged the hardest-hit communities and the needs of low-income families, while not meeting its obligation to prevent racial segregation.

The revised, HUD-approved plan increases spending on housing for low- and moderate-income Texans by $417 million over what the state originally proposed.  The state also agreed to reallocate roughly $300 million to the high-poverty areas of East Texas and the Rio Grande Valley with severe post-disaster housing needs.

“The State of Texas is to be applauded for sending additional funds to the hardest hit areas of Southeast Texas and the Rio Grande Valley with the greatest unmet need for hurricane repairs,” said Madison Sloan, an attorney with Texas Appleseed. “We believe the State is now committed to inviting the necessary public participation, and providing training and oversight to ensure that this federal money is spent to address documented need,” Sloan said.

Additionally, the revised plan answers TxLIHIS’ and Appleseed’s civil rights concerns. This includes an analysis of fair housing issues in hurricane-impacted areas that will guide recovery programs to ensure funds expand housing choice and do not further segregation. “The settlement agreement provides for a strong, effective and transparent post-disaster recovery program,” said John Henneberger, TxLIHIS co-director. “Texas will apply the lessons learned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Minorities, the poor and persons with disabilities will be treated fairly in the Texas disaster recovery programs.”

Michael Allen, attorney with Relman, Dane & Colfax and lead counsel for TxLIHIS and Appleseed, reflected on the importance of the settlement:  “The resolution of the Texas Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) complaint… signals that HUD has raised the bar on AFFH compliance, and that recipients of federal funds have to take their civil rights obligations very seriously. The approach taken in Texas, and this innovative resolution, provides a new template for advocates and municipalities around the country to ensure that federal funds are, in fact, spent in a way that affirmatively furthers fair housing choice.”

Under the new plan, the state must serve the poorest citizens at least in proportion to the damages they have suffered, and guarantee that at least 55 percent of the funds are spent on housing and benefit low- and moderate-income people. Expenditure delays have left families stranded in damaged homes years after a disaster. Now, the state has agreed to adopt a plan to expend the funds within 18 months. The new plan also promises rebuilding of all public housing destroyed by the hurricanes, with an emphasis on placing those units in more economically and racially integrated neighborhoods.

“We applaud the leadership of Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and the state agencies involved, in particular the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, in working constructively to reach an agreement providing a clear path to expedite the federal assistance that Texans need to recover from the Hurricanes. We gratefully acknowledge HUD’s principled insistence that Fair Housing and Civil Rights laws be followed in the rebuilding program,” said Henneberger. “The bottom line is that this settlement means more money will be used to build better homes in integrated communities for Texas families who suffered the most from the hurricanes.”