On November 4, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service will honor four outstanding individuals at the 2015 Texas Houser Awards. The awards recognize those committed to the cause of housing justice as activists, community leaders and policymakers. Our four awardees are leading the charge in expanding housing opportunity and civil rights for low income Texans, and we are proud to recognize them as Texas Housers.
The awards luncheon, held at the historic Zilker Clubhouse in Austin, is the major conclave of those committed to the advancement of housing justice around our state.
To become a sponsor of this year’s Texas Houser Awards, or to learn more about attending the event, please contact us.
Let’s meet the 2015 Housers:
Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
This year, the national epicenter of housing justice has been the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), led by its skilled and dedicated Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez. In recent months, FHEO has defined a statutory standard for judging the disparate impact of housing discrimination that has been affirmed in a landmark Supreme Court decision, stepped up housing discrimination investigations and enforcement activities and issued a major new rule defining the standards that local governments use to ensure their expenditures of public funds “affirmatively further fair housing.” Assistant Secretary Velasquez, who was nominated by President Obama to lead FHEO in 2014, is a true houser. He began his career managing housing counseling and other social service programs in Philadelphia, and, before coming to FHEO, served as the executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center in Washington, D.C.
Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Texas and our nation have been fortunate to have a passionate, intelligent and experienced housing advocate at FHEO during this critical moment for fair housing. Sara is an internationally-recognized fair housing expert, serving in several enforcement positions at FHEO as well as working with the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and a United Nations report on racial housing segregation. She has notably overseen fair housing compliance in a number of Texas communities, including Galveston. Sara also previously worked with the National Fair Housing Alliance, as a civil rights attorney and as a fair housing trainer and consultant. Her long record of advocacy has been an essential contribution to the national progress on fair housing.
Vice President and Deputy Director, Inclusive Communities Project
2015 has been the most important year for fair housing since 1968, when the Fair Housing Act was signed into law. A key catalyst of this extraordinary year is the work of the Dallas-based Inclusive Communities Project (ICP), the organization behind the monumental fair housing victory at the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. Demetria McCain, Esq., is one of ICP’s leaders and an influential fair housing advocate in Dallas and beyond. Demetria is a crucial part of the complex legal work, advocacy and individual mobility counseling that makes ICP so effective in making sure that housing opportunities for low income families are available in all communities. A Dallas native, Demetria previously worked at a legal services firm in Washington, D.C. and as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the National Housing Law Project before returning to fight the good fight in Texas.
Executive Director, Community Development Corporation of Brownsville
Community development corporations are the heart and soul of the modern housing justice movement, and one CDC leads our state in the design, construction and production of affordable homes for very low income Texans. The Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) and Nick Mitchell-Bennett, its smart, dynamic and energetic leader, work in the poorest housing market in the country. They excel at the totality of affordable housing: building affordable communities, counseling, homebuyer training, lending, advocacy and other services to families in need. Nick got his start in the Rio Grande Valley as a faith-based housing volunteer. He has been with CDCB since 1997, driving the organization’s efforts and leading an innovative disaster recovery housing program (RAPIDO) that has been recognized as a national model.