Each year the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service awards three Texas individuals or organizations the Texas Houser Award. In recognition of the importance of various sectors in the provision of housing, the awards are given in each of three categories There was the time, about 40 years ago, when ma: community houser, activist houser and government houser.
The Texas Houser Award recognizes Texans who, through their work on behalf of housing and shelter, are dedicated to achieving a just and caring society that ensures all people a decent home in a quality neighborhood.
Here are a few past recipients of Houser Awards from over the years
West Street Recovery is a grassroots group that mobilized during the torrential downpour of Hurricane Harvey to rescue people amid the rising flood water after the immediate crisis the group helped survivors rebuild their homes. They have worked to amplify the voices of hurricane survivors to advocate at the state and local level for a more equitable recovery that benefits communities of color and people with modest means. Martha Sanchez, community organizing coordinator at La Union del Pueblo Entero. Martha has been organizing colonia residents in the Rio Grande Valley for nearly two decades, educating them about the roots of injustices they endure and bringing them to policy discussions with local officials to share their stories and demand change. With her work, colonia residents have achieved better drainage protection in rural areas the flood frequently, Spanish translation for Hidalgo County public meetings, and recently more stringent Model Subdivision Rules. Her organizing work has helped boost policy expertise among residents as well as their power and capacity to advocate their own solutions to injustices. Elaine Morales-Díaz, design manager at [bc]Workshop. Elaine leads [bc]’s disaster recovery work, including the Rapid Disaster Recovery Housing Program (RAPIDO), which in its previous pilot program in the Rio Grande Valley colonias enabled dozens of families post-Hurricane Dolly to secure decent homes that centered their needs in the design. Elaine has worked on projects and initiatives that promote equity and opportunity for low-income Texans, as well as advocating for just recovery processes that empower local communities to better prepare and recover from natural disasters. Elaine is now working to expand the RAPIDO model to Harvey hit areas. Austin City Council member Greg Casar is currently serving his second term representing District 4. Since taking office, Casar has advocated for affordable housing, social equity, and shared prosperity. This year, he has worked in direct organizing with residents of a manufactured home park to help them avert eviction. In his time, he has sponsored and passed housing initiatives that have dedicated unprecedented amounts of Austin’s city budget to affordable housing creation. These initiatives have changed Austin’s city planning in the hope of fighting economic segregation. The Lone Star Legal Aid Equitable Development Initiative’s goal is to provide the legal assistance necessary to fight systemic discrimination and foster safe, decent, and equitable communities. Through their pro bono work, community outreach, and advocacy, the team has revitalized communities and fought inequities in low-income neighborhoods. The team has assisted a neighborhood hold both the State of Texas and the largest railroad system in the country accountable for decades of contamination and has helped residents of subsidized housing demand better living conditions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Civil rights attorney Laura Beshara has committed her career to undoing the legacy of residential segregation and promoting inclusive, integrated communities through her fierce legal advocacy. She specializes in cases that seek to end exclusionary practices affecting minority residents in predominantly White neighborhoods, and to put an end to the unequal conditions that are systematically maintained in many minority communities. Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation is a community development corporation that not only builds beautiful homes, but fosters one of the most desirable and ethnically, racially and economically diverse neighborhoods in Texas. GNDC epitomizes what a CDC should be: a creator of affordable homes, accountable to residents, and a force for a healthy and integrated community. Based in East Austin and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, GNDC has been a solution to neighborhood decay, the affordable housing shortage, and gentrification. Since its founding in 1980, GNDC has created 72 rental homes and made homeowners out of approximately 42 East-side residents and has also rehabilitated over 50 owner-occupied homes in the neighborhood. Gulf Coast Interfaith, a coalition of congregations and community organizations affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), is the single most effective force for housing justice in the Texas Gulf Coast. Through a dual approach of direct housing assistance and local policy advocacy, GCI has helped thousands of low-income Katrina and Rita survivors rebuild their homes. Today, GCI is extending its organizing and advocacy efforts to survivors of Dolly and Ike. They are taking on the toughest disaster recovery issues and appealing to political leaders to increase Ike recovery funds for the poor and the elderly who were most devastated by the storms. They are also doing what the state too often fails to do: educating survivors on the government’s process for allocating aid and picking up hammers to rebuild shattered homes. ADAPT of Texas – Housing advocates for people with disabilities With the battle cry “we will ride!” ADAPT started in 1985 in the fight for lifts on buses. Since then, they have become the most effective grassroots disability rights organization in Texas. At a time when too many people with disabilities are consigned to institutions such as nursing homes, ADAPT fights for their right to live with dignity in quality, supportive communities. ADAPT members ensure that policy makers are aware of the unique housing needs of people with disabilities. In its over two decades of work, ADAPT has made major gains in assuring the civil and human rights of people with disabilities, including improving the accessibility of housing created with public funding in Texas. Jean Langendorf is a strong and effective advocate of the civil rights of low-income people with disabilities in Texas. The vice president of Housing and Community Services for Easter Seals of Central Texas and the former executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Texas, Jean has devoted her life to ensuring that nobody is denied a home based on their disability and fought against the institutionalization of persons with disabilities and fought for their integration into the community. Michael Gerber, executive director of the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs, has directed housing resources to the neediest Texans, championed open government, promoted dialogue with the community, and instilled a sense of compassion and intellectual excellence in state housing policy — all the while taking on the greatest housing challenges in our state’s history. These include catastrophic Gulf Coast hurricanes and mass displacement of low-income families. Michael Daniel has taken the battle for racial and economic justice to the courtroom for decades. Mike was co-counsel in the landmark housing desegregation cases against U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Dallas (Walker v. HUD) and East Texas (Young v. Pierce). These cases struck down government-sanctioned housing discrimination against African-American families. Mike’s law firm Daniel & Beshara, P.C. continues to represent plaintiffs contesting racial segregation and other forms of housing discrimination. David Hall has led Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for more than 40 years. During his legendary career as an attorney in the Rio Grande Valley, he has defended South Texas farmworkers, fought to help Mexican American residents in colonias have their voices heard in local government, and ensured that even some of the region’s poorest residents have access to effective legal representation. Juliana Gonzales has taken the reigns for the Austin Tenants Council and has become a prominent voice in the legislature. She has also been a strong advocate for renters in the city of Austin as the area grapples with a shrinking affordable housing stock. Sandy Rollins has demonstrated her fierce commitment to tenant rights in Texas since 1979. She has helped thousands of Texas renters protect themselves from being taken advantage of by landlords, organized community members to improve living conditions in affordable housing in Dallas, and held city officials accountable for decisions that infringe on tenants rights or low-income communities. Rollins and other organizing partners led the charge in presenting a landlord that mostly rents low-income apartments in West Dallas with a community-driven plan, demanding the landlord incorporate tenants’ voices in plans for redeveloping the neighborhood. The Houston Chronicle has reported extensively about fair housing issues. Houston’s newspaper of record has covered the aftermath of the Memorial Day floods and a federal investigation of the city’s housing practices, including the siting of public and affordable housing. Rose Wilson was president of the NAACP Lubbock chapter for more than 30 years. She also worked closely with West Texas Legal Services as the president of its client council, and served as a plaintiff in several lawsuits aiming to integrate Lubbock’s political system and schools and further fair housing policy. She was also a plaintiff in Jones vs. Lubbock, a case filed in 1976 aiming to replace Lubbock’s at large city council districts, which had been established in part to prevent minority representation, with single member districts. Sara Pratt 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. Demetria McCain, Esq., is one of Inclusive Communities Project’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. 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. With FHEO, he 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.”
We are very excited to usher in even more honorary Housers into the fold in 2020. Keep your eyes on this space for more news on the Houser Awards.