A lawsuit filed Friday by Lone Star Legal Aid alleges that a plan for parceling out $5.6 billion in federal aid for Hurricane Harvey recovery favors white homeowners over renters, most of whom are minorities, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The suit names as defendants the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Texas General Land Office, which administers the federal funds. The suit argues that not enough aid will be steered toward low-income minority neighborhoods.
“Especially in the Houston area, a majority of the Houston renters are minority households,” Ashea Jones, a staff attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid, told the newspaper. “And under the current regulations, there are no programs that give direct assistance to the renter households.”
The Chronicle pointed out that nearly 75 percent of the federal funding is directed to programs that specifically aid homeowners. Lone Star Legal Aid believes the government, in calculating its programs, didn’t take into account insurance coverage that will help homeowners. Jones told the newspaper that renters were less likely to have insurance to provide reimbursement for their possessions.
The federal aid will allow homeowners to receive reimbursements for temporary housing while their homes are repaired, but renters don’t receive any equivalent direct assistance, the Chronicle reported.
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid filed a similar lawsuit alleging discrimination last month.
Jones told the newspaper this “is not just a Houston or a Texas problem,” and she hopes to force the government to create better guidelines for dealing with future disasters.