Texas Housers Asks HUD to Investigate Houston Discrimination in Infrastructure Spending

The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (Texas Housers), an NLIHC state partner, sent a letter to Anna Maria Farias, assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at HUD, asking HUD to immediately investigate Houston’s failure to provide essential water control infrastructure and flood plain protections for neighborhoods that are predominantly occupied by minority populations and that contain significant concentrations of affordable housing. Texas Housers alleges that the City’s failures amount to discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Locating affordable housing in flood plains, allowing improperly engineered open storm-drainage ditches, and failing to ensure equal flood protection expose residents of these neighborhoods to repeated displacement during floods, loss of personal property, exposure to mold and environment contaminants, and increased exposure to diseases spread by floodwaters. Texas Housers and others have raised these problems with Houston officials publicly and repeatedly, and the problems are documented by the City’s own study of drainage infrastructure. The City has failed, however, to remedy the problems.

Texas Housers sent a separate letter to HUD on October 31 demanding HUD take immediate action to deliver a Voluntary Compliance Agreement that outlines a path for Houston to correct housing discrimination described in a January 11, 2017 HUD letter (see Memo, 11/13). That letter also addresses Houston’s failure to provide equal levels of flood protection for black and Hispanic neighborhoods. While majority white, non-Hispanic neighborhoods are generally provided internal storm water infrastructure that offers streets and structures adequate flood protection, most neighborhoods occupied by people of color are still served by informally developed, open-ditch drainage infrastructure that was inadequately designed and that frequently results in insufficient storm water protection.