A category 4 hurricane like Harvey has a way of exposing the weaknesses in a city’s housing infrastructure. Arbor Court Apartments in Houston, Texas is a glaring example of that.
Arbor Court apartments are in a census tract in which almost half the residents are below poverty, including 78% of the children under 5 years of age. The tract is 3% white non-Hispanic; 51% African American; and 45% Hispanic. Built in the Greens Bayou floodway, the property experiences regular flooding, which leads to a perfect environment for black mold, insects, and pests. There is no shortage of studies that point to the harm housing conditions like these do to the health of children and school performance after so many missed days—with outcomes that follow them throughout their lives.
"There is no shortage of studies that point to the harm housing conditions like these do to the health of children and school performance after so many missed days—with outcomes that follow them throughout their lives."
Watching the waters rise again after Harvey—for the second time in two years—and with the first-floor apartments uninhabitable and uninhabited, a group of mothers with children living in Arbor Court decided to take action. The group approached Texas Housers—an NLIHC state partner organization—to help them to understand their rights and how HUD and their landlord was in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Here’s how it works. The owners of the Arbor Court apartment building have a contract with HUD to rent to those who qualify for federal housing assistance. HUD pays this private landlord over $2.4 million every year under this arrangement. Collectively, the tenants pay 30% of their income in additional rent to the landlord in the amount of $440,000 per year.
On July 17, 2018, over a dozen current and former Arbor Court tenants filed a lawsuit with the help of Lone Star Legal Aid and Daniel & Beshara, P.C. against HUD and the owners of Arbor Court Apartments. The lawsuit asserts that HUD has a clear right to end its contract with the owner of Arbor Court because the owner failed to meet the HUD housing quality standards set forth in the Section 8 contract. The lawsuit further asserts that HUD’s failure to terminate the contract forces tenants to remain in high-crime, high-poverty, minority-concentrated areas and thereby perpetuates racial segregation and racial discrimination in clear violation of the Fair Housing Act and the U.S. Constitution.
Among other requests, the lawsuit asks the court to require HUD to provide tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers and other necessary assistance that would allow the tenants to obtain affordable, decent, and safe housing in communities without substandard conditions.
For periodic updates on this case, visit:https://lonestarlegal.blog/category/news/