HUD says Texas General Land Office discriminated against in distribution of Hurricane Harvey flood relief funding – CBS Dallas/Fort Worth

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Texas administration of Hurricane Harvey flood relief funds violated federal law by discriminating against Black and Hispanic residents in the Houston area, according to a federal housing agency ruling that could channel million dollars in aid for communities hit by the 2017 storm.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that the Texas General Land Office’s distribution process for more than $2 billion in flood mitigation funds “resulted in a disproportionate decrease in funds available to minority residents compared to to white residents”.

The state agency sparked bipartisan outrage from officials and residents of the nation’s fourth-largest city last year when it announced that Houston and Harris County would only receive a small portion of the money Texas was giving as part of an initial distribution of federal funding, though the region suffered the brunt of Harvey’s estimated $125 billion damage.

In a Friday, March 4, letter, HUD warned Lands Commissioner George P. Bush that if his office voluntarily failed to comply with federal law, he could “initiate administrative proceedings” or refer the matter to the U.S. Department. of Justice.

The letter was released Tuesday by a housing advocacy group that filed a lawsuit against the state agency last year.

Spokeswoman Brittany Eck said Tuesday that the Texas General Land Office is considering legal action against HUD and accused the federal agency of “politicizing” flood mitigation efforts.

Bush, a Republican grandson of former President George HW Bush, is running for Texas attorney general.

Last June, Texas Housers and Northeast Action Collective complained to HUD that the Land Bureau’s scoring criteria for distributing disaster mitigation money favored areas with predominantly white residents over predominantly black neighborhoods and hispanics.

Texas Housers, in a statement Tuesday, called the agency’s decision “a major civil rights victory for communities of color in Texas.”

The county’s top leader, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, also welcomed the ruling, issuing a statement saying the county is “ready to help GLO correct these violations.”

“Harris County was ground zero for the harrowing impacts of Hurricane Harvey and continues to be extremely vulnerable,” Hidalgo said. “The share of mitigation funds we receive from the federal government should reflect this reality. ”

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Gregory M. Roy