Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
by David Stanowski
06 December 2010
Professor john a. powell (he chooses not capitalize his name) co-founded the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) and founded the Institute on Race and Poverty (IRP) at the University of Minnesota and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. He is also the former National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Professor powell is widely recognized as a premier expert on issues relating to race, ethnicity, poverty, and the law, and currently serves as the executive director of the Kirwan Institute.
Professor powell was one of the primary expert witnesses in the Thompson v HUD case, in Baltimore, and proposed a “Communities of Opportunity” approach to guide the remedy. Using mapping technology, he identified the Communities of Opportunity in the Baltimore region.
As Professor powell ranked each census tract in the Baltimore metropolitan area, it became obvious that there were not enough "high-opportunity" neighborhoods in the City itself that could serve as acceptable locations for public housing.
For this reason, his analysis convinced the court that the remedy must look to and include the surrounding area in a regional approach. Exactly what HUD says should be done in its "Fair Housing Planning Guide", dated March1996.
On page 29 its states "An affirmative, metrowide/regional approach to the HUD-assisted family housing programs is
encouraged for States and a consortia of local governments (to include State-
funded and Entitlement jurisdictions) in metropolitan areas."
There is little doubt that the Communities of Opportunity approach is what should be used to guide the proper selection of public housing locations in Galveston County. The Kirwan Institute has informed us that they are doing a Communities of Opportunity study of our County, in an effort to assist the people of the County to find acceptable locations for public housing.
Therefore this final installment, in the "Location of Public Housing" series, will serve to introduce Professor powell's work to our readers. He said that, "the remedy must require HUD to utilize the wide variety of tools available, including vouchers and new housing production, to ensure housing opportunities in high opportunity communities."
"The remedy must be sensitive to opportunity and to the importance of location in determining access to opportunity. Where we live and where we have the opportunity to live determine not only our ability to live in an integrated environment, but also determine our ability to access those opportunities and resources that are critical to life outcomes and health."
The GOGP does not have the data for each census tract in Galveston County that is needed to even attempt do a complete analysis ourselves, so this article will merely serve as a preview of the Communities of Opportunity analysis that will eventually be performed by Kirwan, and what our use of these techniques reveal about the cities in Galveston County.
PLEASE NOTE: All of the quotations in this article are from Professor powell's work in Baltimore, as expressed in "Remedial Phase Expert Report, by john powell, In Thompson v. HUD, August 19, 2005", and are not meant to reflect what his views might be regarding Galveston County.
Opportunity is measured in three primary categories:
Economic Opportunity and Mobility, Neighborhood Health, and
Census tracts define neighborhoods which are classified into five groups (very-low, low, moderate, high, and very-high opportunity) based on the quintile in which their opportunity index scores fall.
Indicators of Economic Opportunity and Mobility:
1.) Job growth over the most recent 4-year period.
"This is included to identify areas of increasing employment opportunity."
No data is available.
2.) The number of entry-level and low-skill jobs.
"...these are jobs most likely to be attainable for subsidized housing residents."
"...proximity to employment is important to accessing employment opportunities. It is apparent from the extensive literature on spatial mismatch that inner city residents do not have access to much of the region’s employment opportunities. Jobs are moving further away from the inner city and this disparity is even greater for entry level or low skill jobs."
If the City of Galveston plays the role of the "inner city" within Galveston County, it would be reasonable to assume that it is unlikely to be the city with the most entry-level low-skill jobs, however, the City's large number of hotels and restaurants may offset this national tendency. Therefore, the contribution from this metric is difficult to know until the full study is completed.
3.) The number of entry-level and low-skill jobs per capita.
"This measure helps to determine locations with relatively high demand for entry-level workers. Although low wage jobs may be found in inner-city areas, there are also many low-income workers nearby competing for these jobs."
It is probably reasonable to assume that there are more entry-level low-skill jobs per capita in cities other than Galveston. If so, the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that Galveston is less favorable than other cities for the placement of public housing.
4.) The percentage of the area within one-half mile of a public transit line.
"...transit is highly flexible and can be improved in non-transit, high opportunity communities, to best address the direct needs of subsidized housing residents..."
"...there is a long history of transportation discrimination and areas with exclusive housing policies are also likely to be areas that resist transit lines. Thus, an opportunity-based housing approach must balance the need to meet the transit needs of residents with the potential for reinforcing the exclusion of public housing residents from opportunity-rich areas that do not participate in the mass transit system. In crafting a remedy, it is important to recognize that the transit system is flexible and, to the greatest extent possible, efforts should be made to overcome transit barriers in otherwise opportunity-rich areas."
Other cities in the County may have less access to public transit than the City of Galveston. If so, the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that Galveston is more favorable for the placement of public housing than other cities.
However, if the City of Galveston scores much lower on many other opportunity metrics; a court could order the other cities in the County to implement or expand public transit.
Note: the 2000 census showed that very few people in the City of Galveston were using public transit to commute, including residents of Oleander Homes (census tract 7240) and Magnolia Homes (census tract 7243). It was highly utilized only by people in census tracts 7246 and 7247; in and around Cedar Terrace.
5.) The median commute time.
"This is another measure of accessibility to employment opportunities."
The City of Galveston has the lowest commute time in the County, but the commute times for all the other cities seem to be acceptable. The contribution from this metric may not make much difference when selecting the cities which are more favorable for the placement of public housing.
Indicators of Educational Opportunity:
Indicators of Neighborhood Health:
1.) Population change over the last 10 years.
"...loss of population, particularly upper and middle class population, is accompanied by loss of tax base. This in turn leads to a decline in the quality of municipal services and in the availability of funding for education, resulting in increased tax rates for those who are least able to shoulder them. Also accompanying central city population declines are the out-migration of investment and employment opportunities..."
The contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that those cities which are more favorable for the placement of public housing are the ones highlighted in green.
2.) Crime rate.
"Crime and physical deterioration are identified by residents as the most critical elements of neighborhood quality."
The 2007 crime rates were lower than the national average for those cities highlighted in green so, the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that those are the cities which are more favorable for the placement of public housing.
3.) Poverty rate.
"An extensive body of literature has
identified the detrimental impact of concentrated neighborhood poverty on quality of life."
The cities highlighted in green meet HUD's definition of "low poverty", so the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that those are the cities which are more favorable for the placement of public housing.
Note: "Location of Public Housing: Poverty" did find five census tracts in the City of Galveston that qualify as low-poverty.
4.) Vacant property rates.
"...physical deterioration is a principle indicator of neighborhood quality. Vacant property is also associated with higher crime, higher public service costs, and neighborhood property depreciation and is a threat to public safety."
When the 2000 census was taken, La Marque and Galveston had the highest vacancy rates in the County, but due to the damage from Hurricane Ike, Galveston may now have an "Other Vacant Housing" rate as high as 20-25%! If so, the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that Galveston is less favorable for the placement of public housing.
5.) Median value of owner-occupied homes.
"...more stable neighborhoods tend to
have higher property values. Housing prices and neighborhood quality are highly correlated..."
The contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that Santa Fe, League City, and Friendswood are more favorable for the placement of public housing.
Note: our research did find five census tracts in the City of Galveston with the Median Value of Owner-Occupied Homes greater than $100,000.
1.) The percentage of elementary and middle school students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.
"...school quality and the economic status of its student body have been shown to have significant connections to student performance. Higher poverty schools have been proven to negatively impact student performance, regardless of the individual student’s economic status. Also, teachers in higher poverty schools must spend more time to address the additional needs of high poverty students and as a result have less time to focus on teaching course work."
The cities highlighted in green have school districts with a low percentage of Economically Disadvantaged Students, so the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that those are the cities which are more favorable for the placement of public housing.
2.) The percentage of classes taught by highly qualified teachers.
"Teacher qualifications are important in assessing whether students receive high quality instruction."
We have no data on the teacher qualifications for the school districts in the County; so it is impossible to determine the likely effect of this metric on the overall opportunity indexes.
3.) The percentage of elementary school students proficient in reading.
"as measured by the 3rd and 5th grade school assessment tests."
2010 TAKS reading test results Grade 3:
GISD 85% - State average 92%
2010 TAKS reading test results Grade 5:
GISD 82% - State average 85%
Since GISD reading scores for grades 3 and 5 are below the State average, it is probably reasonable to assume that there are school districts with higher test scores in other cities in the County. If so, the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that those cities are more favorable than Galveston for the placement of public housing.
4.) The percentage of elementary school students proficient in math.
"as measured by the 3rd and 5th grade school assessment tests."
2010 TAKS math test results Grade 3:
GISD 76% - State average 86%
2010 TAKS math test results Grade 5:
GISD 83% - State average 86%
Since GISD math scores for grades 3 and 5 are below the State average, it is probably reasonable to assume that there are school districts with higher test scores in other cities in the County. If so, the contribution from this metric would tend to indicate that those cities are more favorable than Galveston for the placement of public housing.
NOTE: All quotes shown above are from "Remedial Phase Expert Report, by john powell, In Thompson v. HUD, August 19, 2005".
If the locations for public housing were selected by city; after a partial analysis of the data, it appears as though Friendswood, League City, and Santa Fe would be the high-opportunity cities, and Galveston, La Marque, and Texas City the low-opportunity cities; with Dickinson offering moderate opportunity.
It would be easy to make the case that the City of Galveston is the worst location for public housing in the County, and that no public housing should be built in Galveston, La Marque, or Texas City. It could also be argued that most, if not all, public housing should be located in Friendswood, League City, and Santa Fe. This might require a court-ordered public transit system to serve these cities.
When the Communities of Opportunity analysis is completed for each census tract in the County, it is certainly possible that a few census tracts in the City of Galveston may qualify as high-opportunity neighborhoods. The first article in this series, "Location of Public Housing: Poverty", did find five census tracts in the City that qualify as low-poverty, and some of them might pass the full screening as a high-opportunity neighborhood. All five census tracts lie west of 43rd Street.
Part One: Location of Public Housing: Poverty
Part Two: Location of Public Housing: Race and Ethnicity