Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Court blocks Texas General Land Office from Seizing Control of City's Harvey Recovery Funds. Mayor Calls Decision a Victory for Houstonians

HOUSTON -  In a significant victory for Houstonians with homes damaged during Harvey, Mayor Sylvester Turner today announced that the City of Houston won a temporary injunction to stop the Texas General Land Office and GLO Commissioner George P. Bush from removing over $1.2 billion in Hurricane Harvey disaster relief from the City.

The injunction will remain in place until final resolution of the dispute is decided at trial.

“We are pleased that the Judge acted quickly to protect Houstonians,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The ruling today stops the GLO from taking actions that would have harmed our city's most vulnerable populations affected by Harvey, including low income, disabled individuals and people of color, who are protected by the Fair Housing Act through the City’s programs.”

The lawsuit arose in connection with funding that was specifically directed to the City of Houston by the United States Housing and Urban Development Department. The City and GLO entered into a contract providing that the City would administer the relief funds to its citizens. 

Despite the City’s significant progress in managing the program and being on-track to meet the contract’s deadline for the expenditure of the funds, the GLO advised that it planned to take over the funds and eliminate City programs that are helping City residents. The GLO proposed to replace only some of the City’s programs with its own.

Earlier this month, the City filed a lawsuit in Travis County asking the Court to stop the GLO from taking actions with HUD to give GLO control over the funds. The City presented evidence that GLO’s actions would have resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in housing projects slated to be constructed by the City.

The GLO’s new plan for the funds violated the law by disregarding the City’s community-informed and HUD-approved needs-based prioritization of seniors, disabled individuals, and families with children. Instead, the GLO’s program would have spent the money on a first-come, first-serve basis that would risk leaving the neediest people behind once the GLO spent the money.

"I am grateful the judge saw through the politics of GLO's actions and focused on the people of Houston, because they are the true winners in today's decision," Mayor Turner said. 

The Court’s granting of the temporary injunction prevents GLO from taking further actions to try to take away the City’s funding while the case proceeds to resolution at trial.