US HUD: Texas GLO discriminated against minorities when giving Houston, Harris County $0 flood defenses

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – An investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that the Texas General Land Office was “discriminated on the basis of race and national origin” when deciding how to allocate $2 billion in federal funding Disaster preparedness should be distributed.

GLO’s plan netted Houston and Harris County $0, even though the region was one of the hardest-hit regions by Hurricane Harvey. The funds in question would not be used to help residents rebuild, but would instead be used for flood control projects that would help protect residents from future disasters.

Note: The video above is from a report dated May 21, 2021.

HUD notes that the GLO’s own estimates show that residents affected by Harvey face high future disaster risk, and yet its rating criteria have “diverted funds from projects that helped residents with some of the greatest needs and disproportionately disadvantaged minority residents.” would have”.

ALSO SEE: Harris County and Houston Missed $1 Billion in Flood Relief Funds

Texas Housers, an Austin-based nonprofit that serves low-income residents, and the Houston-based Northeast Action Collective filed the civil complaint in June, challenging the GLO’s assessment criteria for determining how resources disadvantaged black and assigned to Hispanic residents. On Friday, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity agreed.

“GLO has excluded areas identified by HUD as being hardest hit and in distress from competing for 50% of the contest funds, despite the fact that nearly 90% of the eligible population resided in those areas,” read HUD’s 13-page letter of determination the Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office George P. Bush. “GLO evaluated applicants based on jurisdiction size, awarding more points to a smaller jurisdiction than to a larger jurisdiction for an equivalent project. GLO used these two criteria even though they disadvantaged areas with the greatest mitigation needs according to GLO’s own measurement and ran counter to the intended focus on low- and middle-income households.”

In a statement Tuesday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Harris County has seen some of its worst devastation at the hands of Harvey and mitigation funds should reflect that.

“Our most vulnerable communities have been left behind for too long when it comes to protecting them from flood disasters. We’re doing our part here in Harris County to level the playing field, but we can’t do it alone. The fight is not over, but thanks to bipartisan efforts to brief GLO on the facts, along with the efforts of our congressional delegation, Mayor Turner, my commissioners’ court colleagues, HUD Secretary (Marcia) Fudge, and the Biden-Harris administration are pulling us in the right direction. We stand ready to help GLO correct these violations and continue to invest in shovel-ready flood control projects that will benefit all residents of Harris County, including the city of Houston,” Hidalgo said.

In a statement Tuesday, GLO spokeswoman Brittany Eck accused HUD of “politicizing mitigation to the detriment of more than 8 million Texans.”

“The GLO managed its program in accordance with HUD policies and the HUD-approved plan of action,” Eck said. “The GLO is considering all options, including legal action against HUD, to break this iron grip on mitigation funding and restore the pipeline of funds to communities.”
When word first broke that Houston and Harris County would not receive funding, Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia accused the GLO of making them political.

“We’ve been told that the smallest towns, some of the smallest towns in Harris County will get a federal grant, but not actual Harris County and not the city of Houston. Imagine,” Garcia said last May. “It’s political, folks.”

SEE ALSO: 13 Investigations: GLO checks on Harvey’s recovery after Houston ‘obstructed’ aid

The City of Houston and GLO have a long-standing feud over various federally funded disaster programs. In April 2020, the GLO stripped Houston of control of $1.2 billion in federal Hurricane Harvey housing assistance, saying the city had “hindered” the recovery of thousands of 2017 flood victims who were still seeking aid years after the storm waiting.

Julia Orduna, regional director for Texas Housers in Southeast Texas, said in a statement this week that GLO’s discrimination decision only addresses half of her concerns. HUD is still investigating its allegations that the GLO violated the Fair Housing Act.

“We need Houston and other Texas cities and counties to act fairly, as we require our state government to do. All we want, and what every Texan deserves, is for their government to allocate federal funds in a nondiscriminatory manner,” she said.

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Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. US HUD: Texas GLO discriminated against minorities when giving Houston, Harris County $0 flood defenses

Dais Johnston

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