A Little Louder is a podcast by Texas Housers, hosted by John Henneberger and Christina Rosales. We talk about fair housing, community development and community efforts to work toward just cities and inclusive neighborhoods.
The news cycle under COVID-19 has operated at a breakneck pace. For many, it's been difficult to track what the rules are and what the government is doing to help those who are in need. Thankfully, at least in regard to housing, we can provide a little clarity for those who may need it.
John and Christina are joined on this week's episode of A Little Louder by Shamus Roller, Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project to help sort through what moratoriums on evictions mean and what in that $2 trillion stimulus goes to housing. We are also joined by our community navigator Ericka Bowman, as she tells us what low-income families in Houston and Galveston are experiencing with the coronavirus limiting everyday necessities like transportation, groceries, and work opportunities.
We are still recording remotely, practicing what Christina calls "physical distancing but social connection." Please continue to stay safe, fellow Housers!
You can follow Shamus on Twitter at @ShamusRoller and the National Housing Law Project at @NHLP.
John and Christina were joined this week by Andrew Aurand, Vice President for Research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, to discuss their 2020 edition of the Gap Report. This deep study into the shortage for rental units for extremely low-income renters exposes some harsh realities for us here in the Lone Star State, including that Texas is far below the national average in affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters. Aurand also offered what solutions are needed to help shorten this gap, including exercising local, state, and federal power to help our most vulnerable community members.
Our two panelists exchanged their thoughts on the matter all while social distancing in their respective homes. Stay safe, fellow Housers!
You can follow Andrew on Twitter at @AGAurand and the National Low Income Housing Commission at @NLIHC.
For decades, federal, state and local officials knew that the fish in Donna Lake in the Rio Grande Valley carried a dangerous level of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). And for decades, residents in the surrounding community fished in the lake and often ate or sold the fish. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted the lake Superfund status in 1993 after a study found that the fish in the lake were toxic and linked to birth defects in infants. Still little was done until recently, when the EPA and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality began remediation and clean up in January. Texas Housers talks to Josué Ramirez who helped lead a local campaign in the Valley to amplify the voices and concerns of residents and demand action that was long overdue.
Nearly half of the city of San Antonio's residents are renters. With the cost of housing rising and wages mostly stagnant, too many renters with low incomes are often at risk of enduring shoddy housing conditions or displacement because of a shortage of places they can afford and few legal protections. "We're sometimes at the mercy of the landlord," one tenant said. A city council member has proposed creating a commission of renters to advise the city on tenant issues and housing policy in order to provide a forum for tenants to voice their concerns and be represented in their city's decision-making processes. Texas Housers talks to council member Roberto Treviño, tenant and organizer Kayla Miranda, and Cynthia Merla Spielman, a landlord and founding member of the Tier One Neighborhood Coalition.
In Texas, and across the country disability rights activists have demanded, worked for, and won improved transportation services, the right to choose where to live, and access to housing that suits their needs. But there are still many more strides to take toward more inclusive, accessible communities. In episode 24, Texas Housers talks to disability rights advocate and organizer Stephanie Thomas, with ADAPT of Texas. Thomas discusses how the fight for equitable public transportation in Texas led to a greater struggle for civil rights, community inclusion, and decent, accessible housing.
Learn more about ADAPT at http://adaptoftexas.org/ and disability organizing at http://freeourpeople.net/disabilityorganizing101andbeyond/.
In its new proposed rule, HUD is redefining a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act and loosening requirements on local jurisdictions receiving federal grants. This would allow more than 1,200 localities charged with addressing patterns of racial segregation to further entrench the legacy of government-sponsored discrimination. We talk to fair housing expert, civil rights attorney, and former HUD official Betsy Julian about how the mandate to affirmatively further fair housing has historically been ignored and how advocates have risen up to make sure the vision of an integrated, inclusive America is not forgotten.
The Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens areas of Houston are historic Black neighborhoods where families have proudly planted roots for generations. Unfortunately for many community members there, industry also took root nearby and brought toxic creosote with it. Recently, the State of Texas conducted a study and, at last, determined what many in these neighborhoods had long felt was true: a cancer cluster exists in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens community.
In this episode, we speak with many of the people who have been working to fight for acknowledgment of the health impacts of toxic industry, including Rodrigo Cantú of Lone Star Legal Aid, Sandra Small of Impact 5th Greater Ward, environmental scientist Dr. Jacqueline Smith, and our own research associate in Houston, Sophie Dulberg.
Housing inequality can often manifest in ways that many do not think of and some take for granted. For example, the simple task of washing your hands or using the restroom are far more complex for low-income families in situations with sewage backups.
On this episode of A Little Louder, we spoke with our advocacy co-director Lauren Loney about the recent consent decree filed by City of Houston, EPA, and the TCEQ addressing Clean Water Act violations in the City’s waste water infrastructure, as well as our own public comments and pushback on the slow walk to environmental justice. Kristen Schlemmer from Bayou City Waterkeeper also joins the podcast to talk about what she's learned with these sewage backups, and the groundswell to address these issues.
Transcription of Episode 21
In 2012, Congress authorized some public housing agencies to convert units from their original federally-funded public housing to project-based Section 8 contracts. Since then, more than 100,000 public housing units have been shifted from public control into private control. In Episode 20 of A Little Louder, we talk to a resident about how the long process of RAD conversion at a Fort Worth apartment complex has worked for her and discuss the context of RAD conversion and what the shift from public housing to privatized housing means for our housing safety net. Other interviews include Texas Housers Northwest Texas co-director Caleb Roberts and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas paralegal Guillermo Gomez.
Transcript of Episode 20
When a disaster hits, flooding and fires might not discriminate, but the systems and funding intended to rebuild our communities do, and in fact the plans public officials put in place often create worse versions of the policies and practices that happen all the time that put people of color and people with few resources at a disadvantage. Texas Housers researcher Amelia Adams discusses patterns that put renters at a disadvantage in hurricane recovery compared with homeowners. We also talk to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney Rachel Zummo about a lawsuit filed by TRLA on behalf of renters who describe the inequitable system of recovery a fair housing issue. With many of the renters unable to recover being people of color, legal aid and the plaintiffs are calling on the state to directly address this inequality. We also talk to plaintiff Brenda Jones from Aransas Pass about her experience after Hurricane Harvey.
Transcript of Episode 19
More than one-third of households in Texas are renters, and in Austin, more than half of residents rent their homes. With those kinds of numbers, it's a wonder why the Texas Legislature has failed to strengthen tenant protections. As a result, too many Texans live in dangerous apartments that some landlords have failed to maintain or repair. A shortage of affordable housing leaves tenants to endure poor living conditions, and worse, too many Texans face eviction and displacement because of a lack of housing protection. For episode 18, Texas Housers talked to tenants in Austin who are demanding that landlords, city officials, and fellow Texans pay attention to the power of renters and support a movement that centers human dignity in all housing. Interviews with Austin tenants include Divina, Jeff and Jeanne. Additional interviews include Austin City Council Member Greg Casar and BASTA project director Shoshana Krieger.
Transcript of Episode 18
In 1915, Independence Heights was the first town incorporated by African Americans in the state of Texas. For more than a decade, it was a self-sufficient town that could control its own destiny. When the City of Houston annexed the town in 1929, so began the threat of erasure of the historic neighborhood. Over the decades, Independence Heights was cut off from the rest of Houston by highways, which both segregated the area and destroyed some of its footprint. Today, another threat is imminent. TxDOT is proposing an expansion to Interstate 45. But Independence Heights will not stand for its value, legacy, and residents to be overlooked yet again. Texas Housers interviewed Tanya Debose, executive director of the Independence Heights Redevelopment Council, and the neighborhoods attorney Amy Dinn, Managing Attorney on the Environmental Justice Team at Lone Star Legal Aid, and historians Aimee VonBokel at Lone Star Legal Aid and Kyle Shelton of the Kinder Institute.
Read the complaint by Lone Star Legal Aid: https://lonestarlegal.blog/2019/06/07/txdots-historical-resources-report-omits-houstons-independence-heights/
Transcript of Episode 17
When the U.S. government designed postwar housing policy and subsidized massive developments and suburbs, it created a strong middle class. The American dream became synonymous with homeownership. But the U.S. government deliberately left out Black Americans, systematizing racist ideals into U.S. housing policy that has left too many people behind. Giorgio Angelini, director of the film Owned: A Tale of Two Americas, explores these themes and how the commodification of housing has distorted communities and the American ideals of opportunity and integration. Texas Housers sat down for an interview with Angelini after his film screening in Austin, Texas. Check out Owned here.
Transcript of Episode 16
If you want to change law and policy, you have to change people's minds. And to change people's minds, you have to change how they feel. Arts and music can evoke, inspire, and move people to action in ways that even the best lectures, policy briefs, and compelling facts and statistics can't. Episode 15 is about how a community came together to write and produce a conjunto music album called Sonido del Agua, rooted in their experiences with deluge, drainage, and fighting to get the infrastructure to protect them from the next flood. Find the full album here: https://soundcloud.com/bcworkshop
Transcript of Episode 15
This is a story about drainage infrastructure in the Rio Grande Valley. But really, it's about injustice, inequality, and a community's fight to get what they deserve: protection from dangerous flooding. Episode 14 of A Little Louder takes a deep dive into the multi-year drainage campaign that improved infrastructure for multiple colonias in the Rio Grande Valley. Texas Housers interviews community leaders Alberta Ramirez and Ana Maria Gonzalez, former Texas Houser Josué Ramirez, and LUPE organizing coordinator Martha Sanchez.
Transcript of Episode 14
More than two dozen people have put their hat in the ring and declared their candidacy for the presidency. With so many candidates, there's a spectrum of domestic and international policy proposals. On this podcast, we take a look at what each candidate has said about their stances on affordable housing, homeownership, tenant protections, fair housing and addressing homelessness. (Note: This is our last episode of season 1 of A Little Louder)
Transcript for Episode 13
Juneteenth is soon approaching in a few days, and in honor of the holiday, we spoke about the preservation of Black neighborhoods which date back more than a century ago.
Joining us on Episode 12 is Dr. Andrea Roberts of the Texas Freedom Colonies Project. She spoke with us about the often missed distinction between freedman's towns and freedom colonies, the history of these neighborhoods, what needs to be done to ensure they thrive, and much more.
To learn more in person about Texas Freedom Colonies, you can attend the “Aya” Symposium featuring a special training session, “Education – THE Foundation for Civil Rights in Texas Freedom Colonies” on June 19 at Prairie View A&M University, or you can visit the Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival in Shankleville, TX, a historic freedom colony, on June 29. http://shankleville.org/txphpfest/
Transcript of Episode 12
The Low Income Housing Tax Credit program is helping to produce most of the new affordable housing in our country. But why is the IRS involved with creating affordable housing? And who gets left behind when this housing subsidy is not targeting the lowest-income people? In episode 11, John and Christina talk to Texas Housers analyst J.T. Harechmak about how tax credits work and the implications of a program often driven by business interests.
Links to articles discussed: It's Nimby Time...Again by Texas Housers
Program to Spur Low-Income Housing Keeps Cities Segregated by the New York Times
Transcript for Episode 11
In episode 10, Texas Housers breaks down HUD's new proposed rule to evict families from subsidized housing if a member of the family is an immigrant without legal status. Christina and John interview Mike Gerber and Michael Roth of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin about how the rule could affect their operations, and Elizabeth Almanza of American Gateways who explains how this proposal could have a chilling effect on immigrant communities.
Transcript of Episode 10
Since Hurricane Ike hit Galveston in 2008, critical public housing units have been lost and never rebuilt. Add the shortage of apartments and homes affordable to many people working service jobs on the island, and this is the making of a housing crisis. On top of that, a housing complex subsidized by the federal government has failed to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing, according to its residents. Texas Housers talks to community navigator Ericka Bowman who has been engaging Sandpiper residents, as well as Sarah Smith of the Houston Chronicle about her coverage of the apartment complex. John and Christina also discuss a language justice campaign in the Rio Grande Valley.
Transcript of Episode 9
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is one of the longest-running programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. When it works well, it has the potential to address poverty and blight and revitalize communities in ways that reflect the priorities of the people who live there. But sometimes, too many political interests and not enough oversight plague the effectiveness of the program. John Henneberger and Karen Paup, co-directors of Texas Housers, discuss how advocates and community members can help steer CDBG back on track to its original goals to serve low-income communities.
Transcript of Episode 8
In episode 7, Texas Housers interviews members of the 10th Street Residential Association who discuss their experience in preserving their historical status and their continued struggle to ensure the future of their neighborhood, settled more than a century ago by freed slaves. The neighborhood group has filed a lawsuit against the City of Dallas, asserting that "[t]he City of Dallas's policies and practices have racially segregated the Tenth Street neighborhood for many decades." The community is asking for the same privileges and investment other historical white neighborhoods in Dallas have received.
Transcript for Episode 7
In episode 6, Texas Housers highlights some noteworthy housing bills proposed in the 2019 legislative session. Some promote quality housing and tenant rights. Others not so much. We also discuss low-income housing tax credit corruption and shortages in affordable housing.
Transcript for Episode 6
In episode 5, we take a deep dive into how segregation caused Black and Latino neighborhoods to be trapped near industry and pollution. We talk to residents fighting for environmental justice.
Transcript of Episode 5
In episode 4, Texas Housers discusses the importance of housing mobility and how where you live can change the trajectory of your life. We interview Beth Legg, a fair housing planner, and Martha Sanchez, an organizer in the Rio Grande Valley.
Transcript of Episode 4
In episode 3, Texas Housers discusses how disaster recovery can be vastly improved by a "precovery" plan – that is, planning for recovery, even before the natural disaster hits. A bill proposed in the Texas legislature could help communities do just that. Guests include: Houston resident Deetra Harris; Nick Mitchell-Bennett, executive director of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville; and Professor Shannon Van Zandt of the Texas A&M Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center.
Transcript of Episode 3
In episode 2, Demetria McCain of the Inclusive Communities Project talks about integration and people's right to choose where to live. John and Christina discuss how private equity is changing homeownership and the real crisis at the border.
Transcript for Episode 2
In A Little Louder's first episode, we discuss Opportunity Zones, freedmen's settlement north of Houston struggling with attrition and lack of investment, and how Austin's Clarksville has changed from a culturally rooted freedmen's settlement with no roads or public lighting into a white, affluent neighborhood near downtown Austin.
Transcript for Episode 1