HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — Despite the Texas General Land Office pushing back against federal findings that it discriminated when giving Houston and Harris County $0 in flood mitigation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is affirming those findings.
Now, the federal government says the state GLO has 10 days to fix its Hurricane Harvey recovery plan that “disproportionately harmed Black and Hispanic residents,” according to a letter HUD sent the state on Monday.
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“After reviewing everything again, HUD has issued its findings of noncompliance to GLO and have given them 10 days to enter into a voluntary reconciliation sort of agreement and failure to do so, they will then turn it over to the (U.S.) Department of Justice so we will see how that unfolds,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said during Wednesday’s city council meeting. “We will be carefully monitoring to see what unfolds from that.”
In March, a HUD investigation found the GLO “discriminated on the basis of race and national origin” when deciding how to distribute $2 billion in federal funds for disaster mitigation.
The GLO’s plan gave Houston and Harris County $0 despite the region being one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey. The funds at issue would not go toward helping residents rebuild, but instead toward flood mitigation projects that would help protect residents from future disasters.
The GLO is denying HUD’s claims of discrimination, saying it is “nothing more than a reiteration of its previous letter and a continuation of its blatant political attacks completely lacking factual or legal foundation.”
“HUD falsely claims Black and Hispanic residents were ‘disproportionately harmed,’ but in reality, more than two-thirds of the beneficiaries are Black and Hispanic. Additionally 100% of the projects benefit the majority low- and moderate-income communities,” the GLO said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The GLO has worked tirelessly to help Texans recover and build back stronger having completely rebuilt more than 5,000 homes, reimbursed 3,000 Texas families for repairs, and built thousands of affordable rental housing units across the coast.”
Texas Housers, an Austin-based nonprofit that advocates for low income residents, and the Houston-based Northeast Action Collective filed the civil complaint last June alleging the GLO’s scoring criteria for determining how funds would be allocated disadvantaged Black and Hispanic residents.
Earlier this year, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity agreed. But, the GLO pushed back, and among its arguments, said the action plan for the funds was approved by HUD and that HUD “worked hand-in-hand with the GLO” to develop the plan.
In a letter this week, HUD reminded the state that it “has made clear to recipients and to the GLO specifically (that) approval of an action plan does not constitute a determination that actions taken to implement the plan are in compliance with civil rights laws.”
Ultimately, HUD said its review sustained the initial letter of finding and “constitutes a formal determination of noncompliance” with equal opportunity laws that “prohibit recipients from denying a person housing, providing housing in a different manner, or subjecting a person to segregation or separate treatment under the program or activity on the ground of race, color, or national origin.”