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Scattered Sites

by David Stanowski
11 August 2014

Imagine our "amusement" to find an article on the front page of yesterday's GCDN reminding us that the GLO WILL BE building 385 public housing units on scattered sites throughout the City.

Our "amusement" comes from the fact that elements in the previous City Council made great efforts to leak the message that "the scattered sites will never be built", in an attempt to end the opposition to their rebuilding plan. The idea was that if they could convince us that they would "only rebuild Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes", and stop at that point; the voters would forgive their betrayals and broken promises, during the 2012 election campaign, and support for our lawsuit would erode.

They even went so far as to hire Terry Morgan to review their options, and write a report, where he said that "The City may wish to challenge the findings and recommendations of the study, should the conclusion be reached that only sites in the City AFFH (other than the 50 units to be located off the island)". and "The foundation for an off-island strategy for scattered site units is the theory that a regional approach to reconstruction of public housing units destroyed by the hurricane is mandated under the FHA, and to assure that such reconstruction AFFH." But we didn't believe those leaks for a minute, because trying to stop any portion of this rebuilding plan required a measure of character and courage completely absent from the 2012-2014 City Council.

Not to be outdone by the previous City Council, shortly after this year's election, we heard the same assurances, that the scattered sites will never be built, from sources familiar with the thinking of some on the new Council. Hopefully, everyone can now let go of the fantasy that the GLO will just decide not to build these 385 public housing units, in neighborhoods throughout the City, or that the current City Council will make any attempt to stop the GLO from doing so. In order to do that, the City Council will have to sue the GLO and HUD, and they simply do NOT have the character and courage to do that!

However, NEVER FORGET that the last City Council directed the City Attorney to fight our lawsuit tooth and nail, and there is no doubt that the current Council will be fighting our appeal. These City Councils are eager to bully a small non-profit group, representing the interests of the people, of this city, but this deceitful and cowardly bunch has no stomach for a fight with the GLO and HUD! They are not up to any "heavy lifting"!

Remember, the GOGP lawsuit seeks to stop the rebuilding of not only Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes, but the scattered sites, too. A decision from a court that followed the precedents of the Thompson and Walker cases, and many others, would order ALL of these units be sited only in the high-opportunity census tracts throughout the ENTIRE COUNTY. This would place most of them on the Mainland rather than ALL OF THEM ON THE ISLAND.

In our Application for a Preliminary Injunction (Document 58), we stated:

"Request for Relief

Plaintiffs thus move this Court to enjoin Defendants from:
1. Commencing building any of the proposed units on the sites of public housing destroyed by Hurricane Ike,
2. Commencing building any of the units intended to be placed on scattered sites around the island,.."

Hopefully, the reality of the fact that the 385 scattered sites WILL BE built on the Island, absent a successful appeal, should galvanize even more support for our appeal.

The GHA rebuilding plan calls for returning ALL of the original 569 public housing units to the City, in violation of the precedents created by the lawsuits that called for a regional approach to public housing site selection. However, 569 is the MINIMUM number of subsidized units that the City will receive. 

If the 138 market-rate units, at Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes, are not filled with middle-class tenants, they will remain vacant, or be allowed to accept vouchers which could add up to 138 more subsidized units to the total count. That will push the number to 667! If they decide to shift some of the scattered sites to larger developments, using the mixed-income scheme, the number has the potential to grow even further.

WHERE will they be built?

If the GLO consultants do their job properly, and build them only in the high-opportunity neighborhoods identified by Dr. McClure, all 385 should be built in census tracts 7255, 7257, and 7260. "Most tracts in the City of Galveston are already dominated by minorities making it difficult to locate scattered site public housing such that it promotes racial and ethnic integration." Page 11 McClure Report

This will jam a whole lot of units into these neighborhoods, but there aren't any other choices, if they are going to follow the Fair Housing Act.

To view maps showing the boundaries of these Census Tracts, click on the following links: 7255, 7257, 7260.

Unlike the GHA, which is rebuilding on the Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes sites, the GLO signaled that it will follow the requirements of the Fair Housing Act when Jorge Ramirez stated in his 07 April 2014 Declaration (Document 98-2), "in order to comply with federal regulations requiring that public housing not be concentrated in high-minority or high-poverty areas."

Therefore, even if the GLO doesn't strictly follow Dr. McClure's analysis, it is highly probable that they will at least attempt to build most of the 385 units in the better neighborhoods in the City.

What is the likely impact on the City if the appeal is not successful?

The failure of our City Councils and GHA Boards, since Hurricane Ike, to stop the rebuilding of all of these public housing units, in this city, will certainly devastate the lives of Public Housing residents, for several more generations, because they will be trapped in these reservations of concentrated poverty. But how will it affect the rest of us?

The impact on the school system will further cripple the City's ability to retain and attract middle-class families with children. GISD is already struggling with 73% of its students designated "economically-disadvantaged". Where is GISD headed? 83%? 93%? The percentage certainly will not be going down.
Between 2003 and 2007, the average crime rate in the City was 526. From 2009 to 2012, the average crime rate in the City was 420. (2008 was removed, because it was the year that was both pre and post Ike) The average nationwide crime rate between 2003 and 2012 was 293, putting this city far above the national average! See: City Data 

Before Ike, Oleander Homes, Palm Terrace, Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes were in operation. Between 2009 and 2012 these reservations of concentrated poverty were gone. That would seem to be a major reason for the 20% drop in crime. The inner-city (61st to 4th street) has been near a tipping point for years. What will happen to the crime rate if new projects are built in this area? Higher than average crime rates are not the way to attract middle-class residents, and rising crime rates will make it even worse.

GPD just requested 12 more officers. This number will surely increase, if 529 more public housing units are allowed to be rebuilt. The more that the City spends on policing the less money gets spent on infrastructure making it even more difficult to attract middle-class residents. It's a vicious circle that starts with an ever increasing level of poverty and the dysfunction that it creates.

What did the City Councils and GHA Boards think was going to happen to the schools, the crime rate and other "social problems" if they didn't put an end to the City acting as the reservation of poverty for the entire County? The answer is that they didn't think! They were far too willing to buckle to HUD's demands in return for the promise of getting the streets paved! They gave in to HUD, but where is the asphalt?

Nothing has changed since our message on 07 August following the final ruling. We MUST move forward and win the appeal. Now, the City simply realizes that the stakes are even higher, because we are talking about far more than just Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes! The City's decline will either be stopped here; or it will continue and most likely accelerate.

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Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell

Segregation is Fair Housing.



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