Texas Appleseed works with a network of organizations in Texas, including housing advocates, policy experts, and grassroots community groups, to ensure that all Texas families are able to recover in the wake of a natural disaster, that communities are rebuilt to be more resilient, and that all families have the opportunity to live in safe, decent neighborhoods with equal access to educational and economic opportunity. This work started in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, continued with recovery from Hurricanes Ike and Dolly in 2008, and now will be a major focus as we respond to Hurricane Harvey. This blog post explains some of the lessons we've learned over more than a decade of experience in advocacy on behalf of survivors of natural disasters.
We know that communities that are hardest hit, both by natural disasters and by social and economic injustice, are too often low-income communities of color that have not received equal investment in basic public infrastructure and services and that often have had undesirable uses, like environmental hazards, concentrated there. Texas Appleseed believes that local, state, and federal government must remedy these legacies of discrimination and pave the way for a better, safer future for families living in these communities, and we advocate to make those changes a reality.
- Fighting the Federal Rollback of Civil Rights. HUD continues to attack fair housing. Texas Appleseed has submitted comments on HUD’s attempt to roll back civil rights protections including the disparate impact theory of liability, publication of data on mortgage lending, and the affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) rule.
- Lubbock Administrative Complaint Alleging Discriminatory Zoning (December 9, 2019). East and North Lubbock residents, the Lubbock Branch of the NAACP, and Texas Housers, represented by Texas Housers and Texas Appleseed, filed a U.S. Housing & Urban Development (HUD) administrative fair housing complaint against the City of Lubbock after the city ignored repeated concerns from residents whose homes are situated near heavy industry, including concrete batch plants and cottonseed oil mills. Lubbock has a history of discriminatory zoning that deliberately segregated Black and Latinx neighborhoods and then concentrated environmental hazards in those neighborhoods. The City both failed to acknowledge its discriminatory policy and practices in its AI, and recently adopted a comprehensive plan that continues these practices. HUD has begun its investigation. Read the complaint and press release.
- Hurricane Harvey Advocacy with Community Coalitions. Texas Appleseed works closely with two Houston-based coalitions: the Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER) and the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity Coalition (HOME), a first of its kind in Texas multi-issue coalition focused on equity. Among the coalitions’ achievements is the inclusion of equity language in Harris County’s $2.5 billion flood bond, and working with the County to develop a formula that prioritizes the most vulnerable areas (August 2019). Read the press release. We have also worked with CEER and local community organizations to organize and facilitate two town halls to gather community input on what kind of infrastructure and mitigation would be necessary to protect historically disinvested and low-income areas.
- First-Ever Allocation of CDBG-Mitigation Funds. For the first time, in February 2018, Congress appropriated CDBG funds for projects that will mitigate the impact of future disasters and increase resilience. Texas has been allocated $4 billion in CDBG-MIT grants. The state (GLO) published its Action Plan for these funds on November 21, 2019. Texas Appleseed worked with the HOME and CEER coalitions to submit comments on the Action Plan to ensure these funds are distributed equitably and remedy substandard conditions in communities of color. Read the comment letter.
- Lawsuit Alleges Discrimination in Port Isabel Hurricane Rebuild Efforts (Nov. 6, 2017-ongoing). Texas Appleseed and Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP are representing the Cameron County Housing Authority (CCHA), in a fair housing case against the City of Port Isabel for blocking efforts to rebuild multi-family affordable housing after Hurricane Dolly. The case is currently on appeal to the 5th Circuit. Read the appeal brief, defendants' brief, and reply brief. Oral argument was scheduled for April 1, 2020, but has been postponed due to the coronavirus.
- Conciliation Agreement. In 2010, Texas Appleseed and our partner, TxLIHIS, entered into a landmark Conciliation Agreement with the State of Texas in which the State agreed to comply with Fair Housing laws in allocating more than $3 billion in disaster recovery funds, and assuring historically underserved communities would get their fair share of the funds. As a result of this Conciliation Agreement, millions of dollars have flowed to these communities.
- Hurricane Harvey programs adopted lessons learned from the 2010 Conciliation Agreement and reflected our post-Harvey advocacy with community organizations, including fair housing reviews, proportional allocation of housing funding by income, a requirement that multifamily housing rebuilt with CDBG-DR funds accept Housing Choice Vouchers, and buyout programs that included incentives to ensure that low-income families could afford to move out of harm’s way.
- Harris County’s $2.5 billion drainage bond included language mandating equity, and the formula for prioritizing projects includes equity markers like the social vulnerability index, which prioritizes the most vulnerable areas.
- The 2019 Austin Regional AI includes data from Texas Appleseed on cross programmatic issues like fair financial services.
- With the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) and TxLIHIS, obtained an agreement with the Mayor of Houston that moved $30 million in disaster recovery funds to repairing single family homes.
- Worked in partnership with colonia residents, organizing groups and TRLA to obtain $14 million for badly needed drainage in the colonias, which suffered the worst Hurricane Dolly flooding and some of which had standing water for weeks after the storm.
- Our advocacy with local partners for rebuilding public housing in the City of Orange in safer and higher opportunity areas resulted in a plan to rebuild and move several developments to higher opportunity areas with less crime and better schools.