No federal action to un-screw Houston on Harvey relief funds

Not yet, anyway. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this.

The federal government is punting for now on enforcing a finding that Texas discriminated against communities of color when it stiffed Houston in distributing flood mitigation funds stemming from Hurricane Harvey.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development found last March that the state’s scoring criteria for communities that applied for an initial pot of $1 billion ran afoul of federal civil rights protections.

It said the Texas General Land Office’s criteria “caused there to be disproportionately less funding available to benefit minority residents than was available to benefit white residents.” Some communities, including Houston, Harris County and Port Arthur received no funding in the initial distribution.

After Texas officials, who have denied that allegation, rebuffed federal housing officials’ requests to adjust the plan, HUD referred the matter on April 17 to the Department of Justice.

“On June 28, 2022, HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge requested in writing that Texas Governor Greg Abbott bring GLO into compliance by executing a mutually agreed upon voluntary compliance agreement,” HUD officials wrote in the referral. “Subsequently, the Governor indicated that he was not open to taking any action to resolve HUD’s findings of discrimination. HUD has exhausted all avenues but has not been unable to voluntarily resolve this matter.”

The DOJ, though, said two days later that it would not take any action until HUD’s related investigation into whether the state also violated the Fair Housing Act is complete. It also urged HUD to continue seeking voluntary compliance from the state.

“Based on our review, we are deferring consideration of referral and returning the above-mentioned matter to HUD for further investigation,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke wrote on April 19.


Two advocacy groups, the Northeast Action Collective and Texas Housers, filed a complaint with HUD, which said the plans ran afoul of the Civil Rights Act. That finding centered on two issues with the GLO criteria.

First, the state used a metric that effectively penalized large jurisdictions, such as Houston, by measuring what percentage of an applicant’s residents would benefit from a proposed project. The City of Iola applied for a project benefiting all 379 of its residents, and received 10 points for that criteria. Houston applied for a project benefiting 8,845 people in Kashmere Gardens, and it received .37 out of 10 points, because Houston has 2.3 million residents.

Second, HUD said the state divided the competition into two uneven categories: the most impacted and distressed areas, as defined by HUD, which included Houston and Harris County; and more rural counties that also got a presidential disaster declaration. Both categories fought for pots of essentially equal money, but the first category has about eight times as many residents, and includes 90 percent of the minority residents in the entire eligible population.

Ben Martin, research director at Texas Housers, said those findings stand, despite the DOJ’s letter. He said the Fair Housing investigation also results from the complaint Texas Housers and the Northeast Action Collective filed.

“We urge HUD and DOJ to move quickly to resolve the remaining investigation and if necessary to move to enforcement in order to cure the discrimination that the state of Texas has engaged in,” Masters said. “Also, both DOJ and HUD have urged the state to participate in voluntary negotiations to resolve the matter and to get desperately needed assistance to the communities who were discriminated against. We stand ready to act to resolve this issue.”

See here, here, and here for some background. As the story notes, Harris County was also initially screwed by the GLO, but eventually received $750 million, which is still not enough but which is now mostly going towards existing flood mitigation projects originating with the 2018 flood bond referendum. I’m not sufficiently versed in bureaucratese to grok this decision by the Justice Department, but if I had to guess they want HUD to finish up its other investigation so that if and when they move to enforce something on the GLO, that won’t be a dangling thread that a federal court could point to as a reason to hold them off. I dunno, it’s all kind of arcane. Given this, I’ll join the call for HUD to get on with it, and then we’ll see what the DOJ does.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in The great state of Texas and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to No federal action to un-screw Houston on Harvey relief funds

  1. C.L. says:

    I’m all about equal rights for all, but am getting really tired of Everything boiling down to race as the reason something didn’t go your way. If both the City of Iola and the City of Houston applied for the same piece of (Kashmere Gardens, (a neighborhood, not a City, BTW)) pie and Iola (20 miles east of B/CS) stated 379 folks were affected (100% of the city population) and the CoH stated 8,845 out of 2.3M were affected by Harvey, then the CoH heads of whoever presented that to the State should roll for their ‘bad math’.

    Was the State’s criteria flawed in some manner ? No doubt (look no further than who’s running this gov’ment), but if the CoH’s request was equally as flawed…

    Written by a CoH resident who had Harvey rain pouring from my ceiling.

  2. Joel says:

    Race as a reason for everything will be a less compelling argument soon after race is no longer the reason for everything.

    Maybe you should have studied harder in CRT? Or, you know, made relationships with some non-white people.

  3. C.L. says:

    Joel, that’s the issue – race is NOT the reason for everything. Sometimes (not every time) it’s just a card being played when things don’t go your way, and sometimes it’s an easy ‘excuse’ to fall on when others make decisions an affected individual does not agree with or don’t benefit him/her directly.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    CL, you are completely right, and of course, I suspect that one of the reasons why places like Iola got the funding is due to the fact that the federal block grant was intended to help counties and cities that have less tax revenue than a city the size of Houston.

    Nevertheless, the people at the city of Houston don’t know how to respond to an RFA, and their application was not competitive.

    I’ve had to abandon my campaign for mayor after Sheila Jackson Leigh jumped in, I have no chance, but maybe I can get in the District C race, and, with my knowledge of federal funding, and SJL’s influence in Washington, we could really rake in the federal funds. But, I can’t help those who don’t want to help themselves. Much easier to suffer and blame someone else for your sorrow.

Comments are closed.