The Houston City Council unanimously approved $5 million in funding to relocate residents of Kashmere Gardens and Fifth Ward due to the areas being a cancer cluster because of the Union Pacific Rail Yard.
Councilor Letitia Plummer said it was a “bittersweet moment” for the community.
“Fifth Ward was once a vibrant community and now we are having to relocate, obviously, because of the irresponsibility and inconsiderateness of our neighbors,” she said.
The opportunity to move is voluntary, and residents are not being forced to leave, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“We can’t do it for everybody. We can’t afford to do it for everybody, but we certainly can set up this fund that will allow some people an option, if they so choose.”
Turner said this is being done by the city in collaboration with the community, health department and other agencies, and the city should be proud to provide people with limited means “an option.” Plans for moving people will come at a later date.
“The remaining steps will be in collaboration with the community and the people who are directly impacted by this cancer cluster,” he said.
Councilor Tarsha Jackson said this is a start, but there will be more fighting to hold Union Pacific accountable.
“Folks are going to be assigned caseworkers, and ongoing meetings,” she said. “This is just getting the funds started … so that we can move forward.”
The City of Houston announced earlier this summer it would start making plans to relocate residents living near a Union Pacific Rail Yard in Fifth Ward. Residents have been fighting for years to get the site cleaned up and said that it has caused cancer in the community, although the company disputes that. Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens were deemed a cancer cluster in 2019 after the state found higher-than-normal cancer rates in the area.
Plummer said she wants city council to codify the process once there has been a completed plan so that the the community will have the same protections under the next administration.
Ashley Brown contributed to this report.