Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nonprofit Alleges City of Houston Violated Fair Housing Act

The Housing Corporation of Greater Houston, developers of a proposed complex called Magnolia Glen that would provide housing for the homeless and mentally ill, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging that the city of Houston violated the federal Fair Housing Act by not providing $4 million for the Magnolia Glen project. The proposed complex would provide 220 efficiency units at a former motel on the Gulf Freeway frontage road near the University of Houston.

The Housing Corporation, a nonprofit that primarily builds and operates housing for the homeless, does not accuse the city of intentional discrimination. Instead, it alleges that the City Council's failure to vote on the Housing Corporation's request for funding has had the effect of discriminating against blacks who, the complaint says, comprise more than half of the city's homeless and disabled homeless people who are mentally ill or have HIV.

The Housing Corporation cannot argue that the city has engaged in intentional discrimination because Mayor Bill White and his top housing officials have backed the project.

When the corporation wrote the city in mid-October stating that it was considering filing a complaint, Mayor White wrote back that federal laws require the city to take into account neighborhood opposition when awarding federal Community Development Block Grants. White wrote: "The city of Houston believes that neighborhood acceptance or opposition is one factor to be taken into account. It would be a substantial setback for HUD activities if elected officials could not consider community support or opposition ... and determine how to ration scarce funds across a wide range of needs within our community."

The 1968 Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of homes based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex or disability.



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