And, as of 2014, just 6 percent of schools that received an A grade from the educational nonprofit Children at Risk were located in majority-minority neighborhoods, compared with the 43 percent of schools that received an F.


Segregation can be truly remedied only by addressing its dual harms – separate and unequal. The daily, lived inequality in communities of color must be excised by policies and practices that provide real choice and real access to opportunity. This must mean assessing and addressing what segregation has caused.

It’s fairly straightforward: If an area has all the benefits and resources historically afforded to white neighborhoods, but has no housing affordable to low-income people of color, then the legacy of segregation must be addressed by creating affordable housing.

If an area has a disproportionate amount of affordable housing options, but lacks the same type and degree of services and benefits historically afforded to white parts of Houston, then the legacy of segregation requires that these services and benefits be made available to residents through public investment. Equalizing services will require a comprehensive plan and hundreds of millions of dollars in dedicated public funding.

In short, any city with Houston’s history must address both the exclusion of low-income people of color from well-resourced areas and the unequal conditions to which people of color living in segregated areas are subjected.

We are very familiar with the kind of political opposition to integration that’s been seen in Houston. The reaction of some neighbors to the Fountain View development, and the overall picture of separate and unequal conditions painted by the HUD finding, did not particularly surprise us. These are tried-and-true methods of exclusion that play out over and over again around Texas and the country. The deeper and longer-standing the vestiges of racial segregation are in a community, the harder they are to expunge.

Unfortunately, it’s also very familiar to see politicians defending themselves by pitting the victims of historic segregation against each other – suggesting that standing up for the rights of the excluded is inconsistent with doing all that is necessary to make historically segregated minority neighborhoods equal and inclusive. It’s not an either-or situation: Both are required to address the constitutional and statutory violations that segregation involves.

The idea that complying with the federal integration order would somehow force people to move or take funding away from investment in communities of color is not based in fact. It is a fundamental misinterpretation of fair housing and civil rights.

We urge the City of Houston to dismantle the dual legacies of housing segregation in Houston, root and branch. This will require finally allowing affordable housing options like Fountain View in the areas from which they have always been excluded and a real plan and committed funding for equalizing infrastructure and public services in Houston’s traditional neighborhoods of color. There is no other way forward.

Elizabeth K. (Betsy) Julian served as HUD Deputy General Counsel for Civil Rights and HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in the Clinton administration. She has practiced poverty and civil rights law for more than 40 years and is currently Founder/Senior Counsel at the Inclusive Communities Project.

Ann Lott was President and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority from 2001 to 2008 and is now Executive Director of the Inclusive Communities Housing Development Corporation.

Demetria McCain is President of the Inclusive Communities Project. She previously worked as an attorney at the National Housing Law Project and the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in D.C.

Chrishelle Palay is the Houston co-director of Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and formerly specialized in multifamily architecture design and development.