HOUSTON — Houston public housing practices have come under federal review amid a dispute involving Mayor Sylvester Turner over where to build a planned $53 million apartment complex.
The city was advised of the investigation in an Aug. 26 letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/2cz4hHw ).
Authorities will review whether the city’s placement of affordable housing violates the Civil Rights Act, according to the letter to Turner.
Turner, who has opposed a mixed-income 233-unit complex near Houston’s affluent Galleria area, last month declined to let the city council vote on whether the Fountain View project could receive tax credit financing, the newspaper reported. The mayor cited “costs and other concerns.”
Turner has said he’s committed to building affordable housing in neighborhoods with low poverty and access to highly rated schools, but he also wants to revitalize distressed communities.
“The investigation will include a review of the City’s practices with respect to the siting of public and affordable housing, including but not necessarily limited to the circumstances under with the City reportedly withheld support for the ‘2640 Fountain View’ housing development,” Garry Sweeney, director of the HUD’s Fort Worth office, wrote in the letter.
Houston receives federal financial assistance from the agency.
The Fair Housing Act bans discrimination by private and public entities based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability. The broader Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating based on race, color or national origin.
Turner said he has not changed his position on the Fountain View since being advised of the investigation.
“Since receiving the letter, I have had a very positive conversation with HUD Secretary (Julian) Castro in which he made it very clear that this is standard procedure,” Turner said in a statement. “He indicated to me that HUD would not have an issue with me not deciding to proceed on this particular project, as long as my commitment was to build affordable housing in the city of Houston,” the mayor said.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com