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Turner Announces Agreement Resolving HUD’s Investigation That Found Improprieties On Procedures For Low Income Housing Projects

The investigation was motivated by the City’s opposition to a mixed-income apartment complex in The Galleria area

Image provided by Houston Housing Authority
HUD initiated its investigation because the City of Houston refused to support the construction of a mixed-income apartment complex the HHA proposed to build at the 2600 block of Fountain View Drive, near The Galleria shopping center. This image is a rendering of the project.

The Office of Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Friday, March 9th, a joint agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that resolves an investigation HUD finalized last year that concluded the City's procedures for approving Low Income Housing Tax Credit applications were influenced by racially motivated opposition to affordable housing and perpetuated segregation.

HUD initiated its investigation because the City, under Turner's leadership as mayor, refused to support the construction of a mixed-income apartment complex the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) was proposing to build at the 2600 block of Fountain View Drive, near The Galleria shopping center.

Specifically, the City refused to issue a Resolution of No Objection for the Fountain View project and –as stated in a letter HUD sent to Turner on January 11, 2017— HUD's investigation deemed that “the City's actions with respect to Fountain View may have had the purpose or effect of discriminating on the basis of race or national origin.” On its subject line, HUD’s letter stated the investigation had found the City was in “noncompliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Residents of the area where the HHA wanted to build the apartment complex repeatedly complained about the project, but Turner said his opposition was based on its cost, which was estimated at $56 million for 233 units, or about $240,000 per unit.

The mayor emphasized at the time that only 23 of the units, just 10 percent of the entire project, would be designated for families living below the poverty line.

A news release from the mayor's office highlighted the agreement with HUD acknowledges that “affordable housing is needed in all areas of Houston” and that the City commits to “a site selection policy prioritizing, among other factors, high opportunity areas for consideration of Resolutions of Support or No Objection to multifamily developers seeking low income housing tax credits.”

According to an official with the City's Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) that means the City is committing to be objective about low income housing projects that are proposed to be built in high opportunity areas, which are characterized by well-ranked school districts and low concentration of poverty.

Tom McCasland, director of the HCDD, said the agreement “will facilitate the department's ability to develop a comprehensive housing plan, with input from Houston's many communities, and will place Houston on track to becoming a city where every resident has a home they can afford in a community where they can thrive.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson noted that his department is pleased that “the City (of Houston) is committed to making sure taxpayer-supported affordable housing development be supported and encouraged in a fair and inclusive manner.”

According to the news release from the mayor's office, the agreement also stipulates the continuation of the City's pilot voucher mobility program and recognizes the HHA “as a key partner in addressing the city's affordable housing and homeless services needs.”

Additionally, the agreement sets forth a plan for provision of federal funds to HHA for programs to assist families made homeless by Hurricane Harvey.

The agreement also includes a request for HUD technical assistance that will facilitate the City's ability to ramp up for the influx of federal disaster funds and ensure an equitable recovery for “Houston's most vulnerable residents.”

Approximately $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds have already been allocated to the State of Texas for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Below is a copy of the letter HUD sent to Mayor Turner in January 2017 regarding its investigation:

Below is a copy of the Voluntary Compliance Agreement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of Houston:

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