Hurricane Harvey, Houston & HUD | Agreement to Expand Low Income Housing Options

It’s been several months since we last reported updates on Houston’s recovery following Hurricane Harvey, and while life for most has returned to normal, many in the city are still suffering the effects of the nation’s heaviest concentrated rainfall on record. On March 12, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reached an agreement with the City of Houston to expand assistance programs for the homeless, affordable housing options and the housing voucher program.

According to the Houston Chronicle, goals of the agreement include “to set clearer affordable housing policies for Houston and to help more low-income families move to neighborhoods with good schools.” Citing a subsidized housing development near the Galleria which was halted in 2016 (among other policies and incidents), a 2017 HUD investigation found that some of Houston’s housing policies violated the federal Civil Rights Act as the city’s “process for reviewing applications for a key form of low-income housing maintains segregation, in part by giving too much weight to racially motivated opposition from neighborhood residents.”

Another key part of the agreement is committing $3 million to support homeless assistance programs, and an additional “$2 million in disaster assistance to match $2 million in private funding to the Houston Housing Authority” to aid those who became homeless due to Hurricane Harvey. Read more details from HUD’s press release.

Still many have found the proposed solutions unsatisfactory. Washington, D.C.-based attorney Michael Allen, who represents the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, an Austin-based advocacy group, commented saying, “Housing vouchers in high-opportunity areas, that’s a good idea, but there’s nothing enforceable here. And the reference to helping people made homeless by Harvey — Harvey hadn’t even happened when the HUD found the city in violation, so that remedy doesn’t even line up logically.”

While the debate over fair housing policy continues to unwind, we are hopeful that Houston is on the right track in seeking access to safe and affordable housing for all its citizens. Check our blog for the latest in local and federal policy updates.

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