Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
by David Stanowski
29 November 2010
Recently, the GOGP was told that a prominent member of our community said that public housing will never be built on the West End; that was just a scare tactic!
If this is true, this statement is disturbing on two levels. First, why would it be a scare tactic to say that public housing will be built on the West End? The Mayor has been telling us that everything that gets built will be "first class" public housing. What's scary about that? How could building public housing on the West End be a scare tactic, but building on the East End not be a scare tactic? Can anyone explain that?
In addition, how can such a statement be made without examining the demographic data throughout the City? We are not aware of any such effort, so far, by the GHA Board. The GOGP contacted the Mayor and asked for his official position on building public housing west of 61st Street, and west of 99th Street. There was no reply.
Where is a federal judge most likely to order placement of public housing in this city? No one can know for sure, but by reviewing the opinions of the fair-housing groups that would act as expert witnesses, and examining previous court rulings, along with the demographic data for each of the City's 22 census tracts; it becomes pretty clear what a judge would probably do.
The purpose of this series is to present the evidence, let you play the role of federal judge, and see what you think.
There are more than a dozen primary factors that will go into this decision, but this article will concentrate on the most critical: poverty.
In testimony before Congress on 05 May 2010 representatives from the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law made a strong case for the placement of public housing in census tracts with low concentrations of poverty.
They said that "the long-standing HUD definition of ..."low poverty" is less than 10% of the population in a census tract at or below the federal poverty line...”
"To throw out the low poverty requirement because of the shortage of low poverty areas “within the jurisdiction” of many urban PHAs, as some have argued, would be precisely the wrong solution. The longstanding practice of PHAs to “take the path of least resistance” by siting new public housing in already poor neighborhoods is one of the major contributors to concentrated poverty in our cities – and one of the reasons that so much public housing is now so distressed that it is at risk of demolition."
"In contrast to positive impacts on property values in stable, higher value, non-minority neighborhoods, the presence of assisted housing in lower income and/or minority neighborhoods was found to have a negative impact on property values and to raise residents anxieties about the neighborhood."
How many census tracts in the City of Galveston can be rated as "low poverty", i.e. less than 10% of the population at or below the federal poverty line, and suitable for the placement of public housing?
Census tracts 7253, 7255, 7257, 7260, and 7261 meet HUD's definition of low-
7253 and 7255 lie west of 43rd Street. 7257 lies between 69th and 81st Streets. 7260 and 7261 lie west of 99th Street.
Maps of each census tract are available by clicking on the links in the table shown above.
Maps of the locations of each census tract within the City are shown below.
The only areas that have been specifically identified for building by GHA are the footprints of the old projects in census tracts 7240, 7243, and 7246. They are all areas of either high (20-40%) or concentrated (>40%) poverty. Totally unacceptable locations!
Placement following the low-poverty criteria would move public housing from District 1 to Districts 4, 5, and 6 shifting local political alignments and forcing changes to the Poverty Industry.
You be the federal judge. Where is public housing most likely to be built? According to the criteria cited in the Congressional testimony shown above, or on the footprints of GHA's former housing projects?
The GOGP continues to maintain that any additional public housing built in this county should be outside of the City of Galveston. This city already has more than it's fair share of public housing, and with 22.3% of its residents living below the federal poverty level; it is not a city that can accommodate public housing and also reduce the concentration of poverty in the County.
However, if the City is forced to build additional public housing, the only census tracts that seem to be acceptable are in the western part of the City.
Part Two: Location of Public Housing: Race and Ethnicity
Part Three: Location of Public Housing: Communities of Opportunity