On Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 267, officially banning any local ordinances that protect people with housing vouchers from discrimination. The bill was a response to a new source of income protection law in Austin, which will become unenforceable when SB 267 goes into effect on September 1. SB 267 does include an amendment to allow local ordinances protecting veterans from source of income discrimination.
Housing advocates and civil rights groups are meeting to determine the next steps in combating discrimination against voucher holders. We sent Gov. Abbott a letter urging him to veto the bill, as SB 267 violates Texas’ obligations to affirmatively further fair housing, outlined in federal law and in the landmark conciliation agreement that we and our partners at Texas Appleseed reached with the state of Texas in 2010. In order to meet fair housing requirements, the state must address barriers to mobility and housing choice for voucher holders, not construct new ones.
Signing SB 267 has risked the state’s compliance with the conciliation agreement and with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The law runs counter to the state’s own fair housing plan and imperils HUD funding dependent on the state’s progress in affirmatively furthering fair housing. When the state applies for its annual federal allocation for something like the Community Development Block Grant program, which provided Texas with more than $3 billion for hurricane relief efforts and continues to support projects all around the state, HUD will examine how closely Texas is meeting its fair housing obligations.
SB 267 threatens more than Austin’s ability to govern itself as a home rule city. It threatens more than the families with vouchers facing widespread discrimination. The bill, now enshrined into law, threatens crucial housing funding, and necessary fair housing obligations, for the entire state.