In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Congress appropriated funds under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to mitigate against future natural disasters.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated more than $4 billion to Texas, and the governor designated the General Land Office (“GLO”) to administer those funds.  

Texas Housers—a nonprofit advocacy organization that models solutions to the state’s critical housing and community development problems—lodged repeated written objections throughout GLO’s planning and allocation process, alleging that it disproportionately excluded Blacks and Latinos. GLO never responded, and made no effort to refute the allegations.

In July 2021, Relman Colfax filed an administrative complaint with HUD on behalf of Texas Housers alleging that GLO’s allocation plan and criteria for selections of recipients of the mitigation funding violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act.    HUD conducted an investigation of the claims.

Following its investigation, HUD issued a determination on March 4, 2022, that Texas and GLO had violated Title VI and Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987 because its plan and the scoring criteria for funding awards discriminated on the basis of race and national origin.

HUD concluded that “the design and operation of the Competition discriminated on the basis of race and national origin. GLO utilized two scoring criteria that substantially and predictably disadvantaged minority residents, with particular disparate outcomes for Black residents.”  It also found that the results of an initial round of funding raised issues about discrimination and noncompliance with CDBG program requirements because several communities with large minority populations—including Houston, Port Arthur, Beaumont and Corpus Christi—were all denied funding for disaster mitigation.

HUD specifically noted:

“The results of the competition announced in May 2021 were shocking to many community members.  Local leaders describe the Competition design and outcomes as unfathomable, outrageous, bewildering, problematic, and flawed. Local leaders noted the Competition design was particularly unfair and contrary to the intended focus on disaster risk and LMI [Low and Moderate Income] residents.”

The Houston Chronicle reports that HUD has delayed allocation of funds to GLO because of concerns about the criteria for funding allocations.

This is not the first time that Texas Housers has successfully challenged Texas over its CDBG funding for disaster recovery.  In 2010, Relman Colfax assisted Texas Housers in advocacy with HUD that resulted in HUD’s withholding funds from GLO for discriminating in its selection process based on concerns about discrimination, resulting in a sweeping settlement agreement.

Relman Colfax’s team consists of Sara Pratt and Michael Allen. 

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