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Relman, Dane & Colfax Challenges HUD Over Failure to Ensure Civil Rights Compliance in Houston

On March 20, 2018, Relman, Dane and Colfax filed a complaint on behalf of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service challenging the failure of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to require the City of Houston to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that HUD has known for years that Houston is one of the most segregated cities in the country (as well as the most segregated city in the state of Texas) and that the City has routinely capitulated to racially motivated opposition to the construction of affordable housing in high-opportunity areas. In spite of that knowledge, HUD has consistently awarded Houston over $30 million of funding each year.

In January 2017, HUD made formal findings that segregation in Houston was “well-documented,” and that Houston had violated Title VI by blocking development of an affordable housing complex in an affluent, white neighborhood and by permitting its overall affordable housing approval process to be “influenced by racially motivated opposition to affordable housing…..” Despite that finding, HUD approved Houston’s August 2017 certifications that it was complying with the civil rights laws and released Houston’s federal funds. Then, in early March 2018, HUD let Houston entirely off the hook by entering into a compliance agreement with Houston that allows the city to continue to receive funding without implementing any remedial measures to address the long-standing patterns of segregation in the city. The effect of HUD’s actions extends far beyond Houston because it signals to other HUD recipients that they will pay no price for failing to meet their obligations under the civil rights laws.

As outlined in the complaint, HUD’s continued funding of Houston -- while failing to require the City to address patterns of residential segregation -- violates the Administrative Procedure Act because HUD has a statutory obligation to ensure that the cities it funds comply with Title VI. The complaint further alleges that HUD’s actions violate its requirement under the Fair Housing Act to affirmatively further fair housing and to require its funding recipients to do the same.

The Relman, Dane & Colfax litigation team includes Michael Allen, Sasha Samberg-Champion, and Sara Pratt.

Noteworthy Pleadings