Best of the Texas Housers blog 2015

2015 was quite a year for Texas Housers – our staff grew, more people read our website than ever before and our 140 blog posts covered a wide range of topics, challenges and locations around the state and the country. Here we offer a partial selection of some of our blog highlights from the past year. To keep up with us in 2016 and beyond, you can subscribe directly to the blog and receive new posts via email (click the subscribe button in the righthand column below), and also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Mapping the Austin Apartment Association’s opposition to source of income protection, March 20
The apartment lobby was behind one of the worst things to happen to fair and affordable housing in Texas this year, the state ban on source of income protection laws that prevent discrimination against voucher holders. We examined where the properties owned and operated by the Austin Apartment Association’s board members are located and how that correlates with the racial segregation of neighborhoods that is exacerbated by voucher discrimination.

Legacy of housing segregation felt in McKinney pool incident, June 9
In a year marked by police violence against African-Americans, one confrontation at a local pool in the Dallas suburb of McKinney was captured on video and quickly went viral. The incident was sparked by a white adult’s alleged use of “Section 8” as a slur against black teens at the pool – a remark that has its roots in McKinney’s ugly history of housing segregation.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds disparate impact in monumental victory for fair housing, June 25
The Supreme Court’s landmark decision this summer, along with the federal government’s issuance of a critical fair housing rule, helped make 2015 the most important year for fair housing since 1968. The case, based on the concentration of low income housing in the Dallas area, affirmed the disparate racial impact provision of the Fair Housing Act and will have wide-ranging consequences moving forward.

The Houston general plan: Recommendations for a more equitable city, August 6
The largest city in Texas has long struggled with a legacy of neighborhood inequality and racial division. Our comments on the City of Houston’s general plan proposal, based on our on-the-ground work with our partners at the Texas Organizing Project and submitted by our Houston co-director Chrishelle Palay, suggests ways that Houston can become a more just place for all residents by focusing on affordability, responsible growth, infrastructural equity and more.

The story of the Harbor Bridge: Segregation, neglect and pollution in Corpus Christi, August 7
The historic civil rights agreement reached in Corpus Christi in December resulted from a state proposal to build a new bridge directly through a part of town that had had enough of being mistreated and discriminated against. Our community planner Melissa Beeler went deep on how decades of public and private activity such as redlining, lax zoning, heavy industry and much more created the unacceptable conditions that have now led to a first-of-its-kind agreement (also check out Melissa’s follow-up about the reaction to the agreement on the ground).

Five things the City of Austin can do to reduce landlord discrimination against housing voucher holders, August 14
For a few months, Austin protected voucher holders from the widespread discrimination they face from landlords. Then the apartment association and the Legislature intervened, voiding the City’s source of income protection ordinance. But as our co-director Karen Paup reminded, there are still several ways that city leaders could take action to protect voucher holders, including a voucher insurance fund, stronger fair housing testing and public investment in affordable housing.

2015 Tax Credit Report: When politicians enable prejudice, August 24
Our fair housing planner Charlie Duncan investigated the state’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit dispersal system this year and produced a full report, which you can read here. One of the key findings: The way that the scoring system works is heavily influenced by the participation of state legislators, who in turn are influenced by bias against low income tenants in their districts. In this analysis Charlie explains how prejudice is, essentially, built into the decision-making process about where much of Texas’ affordable housing is built.

Home is where our story begins: Painting a housing mural to honor community builders in Brownsville, September 16
The Community Development Corporation of Brownsville is one of our strongest partners in the Rio Grande Valley, providing invaluable services to low income residents (we honored CDCB’s executive director, Nick Mitchell-Bennett, with one of our Texas Houser Awards this year). Josué Ramírez, in addition to being our Rio Grande Valley director, is also an accomplished artist (see his “Houser Motto” piece above), and reflected on his work painting a symbolic housing mural in Brownsville to honor CDCB’s 40th anniversary in September.

The right to choose, the right to stay, the right to equal treatment, the right to have a say: Reimagining fair housing, October 24
Our co-director John Henneberger delivered this keynote address to a national planning conference in Houston this fall, describing how in current exciting moment for fair housing, we must work to reduce racial segregation and advance neighborhood opportunity by following the four crucial rights laid out by the community leaders of the Texas Organizing Project. By fighting win the right of every citizen to choose where they want to live, avoid displacement, receive equal services and have a voice in decisions affecting their community, we can realize the dreams of fair housing and civil rights from half a century ago.

CDC Spotlights: Three outstanding community development corporations in Texas, December 8
We like to say that community development corporations are the lifeblood of the low income housing movement, building homes, preserving affordability, fending off gentrification and enhancing community in traditionally neglected areas. We’re lucky to have some remarkable CDCs in Texas, and this series profiled the history and current work (and new challenges) of three: Blackland and Guadalupe in Austin and CDCB in Brownsville.