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.
For decades, Michael Daniel has taken the battle for racial and economic justice to the courtroom. 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.
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. Mike has embraced initiatives to promote fair housing for hurricane survivors.
Jean Langendorf is a strong, steady 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.
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.
A regular presence at the Texas Capitol, ADAPT members ensures 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.
Gulf Coast Interfaith (GCI) – Housing provider and advocate for low-income disaster survivors
GCI, an interfaith and interracial 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.
Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation (GNDC) – Community developer
GNDC is a community development corporation (CDC) 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. GNDC has also rehabilitated over 50 owner-occupied homes in the neighborhood, and has gone beyond the work of building homes to bring about other neighborhood improvement projects.
President Lyndon B. Johnson – Special program booklet (PDF)
Heather Way – activist houser
Heather Way, attorney, housing advocate and lecturer at the University of Texas Law School, is known for her tireless efforts to advance affordability for low-income families through state and local housing policy. Heather helped found and directed the UT Housing Law Clinic and Texas C-BAR, which matches pro bono legal representation with community organizations that are working to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Heather is also spearheading the Austin Downtown Housing Forum to make Austin’s downtown affordable to low- and moderate-income families. In 2005, Heather drafted and helped pass ground-breaking land banking legislation that helps maintain housing affordability in Austin neighborhoods that have been home to low-income families for generations, but are facing the pressures of gentrification.
Ruth Cedillo – government houser
During her tenure as deputy director of the state’s housing agency, Ruth Cedillo worked tirelessly to set a higher standard for how the agency responds to the housing needs of Texas’ poorest families. Ruth played a pivotal role in establishing the Housing Infrastructure Fund at the housing agency, which provides grant money to help low-income border colonia residents connect to water and sewer services. When a massive tornado wiped out the small town of Jarrell, Texas, Ruth took initiative to identify relief funds for housing and public facilities, despite the fact that the state received no federal resources. “The wonderful thing about Ruth Cedillo,” said colleague Sandy Mauro, “is that it has always been her belief that you treat people with respect and dignity. She believes there is always a way to help them, and you need to do it.”
Will Wynn – community houser
As mayor of Austin, Will Wynn is working hard to make the city a vibrant, affordable community for families of all incomes who call Austin home. In the wake of last year’s devastating hurricanes, Mayor Wynn personally welcomed evacuee families to Austin and is heading up Austin’s effort to help them start anew. This spring, under the Mayor’s leadership, the Austin City Council recommended to the voters a $55 million housing bond to improve housing safety and affordability for Austin’s most vulnerable families.
Standish Meacham – special houser
Standish Meacham is a passionate advocate for housing rights. An internationally respected historian, Standish is the former dean of Liberal Arts and chair of the UT Austin History Department. As chair of the Texas Housing Colloquia, he brought together housers from diverse backgrounds to examine the historical and social aspects of US housing policy. Standish is a founding member of the Texas Housing Forum, which works to advance public support for affordable housing across the state. He is a current board member and past TxLIHIS board president.
Eddie Rodriguez – government houser
During the two terms that Eddie Rodriguez has represented District 51 at the Texas Legislature, he has worked diligently to preserve housing affordability in gentrifying communities like the one he represents on Austin’s Eastside, where working poor families are struggling to afford to live in the neighborhood they have called home for generations.
During the most recent session of the Texas Legislature, Rep. Rodriguez sponsored and passed HB 525, which gives the City of Austin a means of protecting the character of residential areas near the urban core. This includes creating low and moderate-income homeownership opportunities, while providing for a gradual expansion of high density, commercial development that conforms to community expectations and coexists with the residents of owner and renter-occupied, single-family homes.
Nancy Hanson – Lower Valley Housing Corporation – community houser
Nancy Hanson is the executive director of the Lower Valley Housing Corporation in El Paso, which assists low-income families in building homes they can afford. Since 1990, Lower Valley has built or rehabilitated over 1,000 affordable housing units and has developed 15 subdivisions in the cities of Fabens, Horizon, and El Paso. Six-hundred and forty-eight of these homes were built by low-income people themselves, who devoted tem months to constructing their home from the ground up
In a large part due to Nancy’s hard work, the Lower Valley Housing Corporation is operating one of the most successful self-help programs in the nation.
Stephan Fairfield – activist houser
Stephan Fairfield is CEO of Covenant Community Capital, which works to empower low-income communities in Houston to develop affordable housing and create small businesses. Stephan not only tackles the problem of substandard housing in Houston’s poor neighborhoods, but also works to develop long-term solutions to poverty through several innovative programs. One such program is the Smart-Savings Program, which is designed to help low-income families establish a pattern of regular savings.
Stephan was previously the director of the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation in Houston. Over his twelve years at Fifth Ward the organization built over 700 housing units and created nearly 600 jobs. Today he continues to work to broaden opportunities for low-income families by fostering the creation of decent housing, safe neighborhoods, and steady jobs.
Edwina Carrington – government houser
As Executive Director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Edwina Carrington oversees the operations of the state agency that administers over $400 million annually for the creation and retention of affordable housing.
Appointed by Governor Perry to reform the troubled state housing agency, Ms. Carrington has worked tirelessly to restore public trust and integrity in the state’s housing agency through sound management practices, a transparent and public process for decision making and making funding awards with a sensitivity to serving the housing needs of low-income Texans. Her reforms have restored the confidence of the Legislature, the Texas housing community and the public in the state’s housing programs.
Amistad Housing Development Corporation – community houser
Outside the city of Hereford, in the Texas Panhandle, the old barracks of a World War II prisoner of war camp were the only housing units available for hundreds of farmworker families who worked in the fields of this rich agricultural region. Known as the “Labor Camp,” the barracks were a terrible place to live.
A group of townspeople, organized through the Catholic Church, came together to form the nonprofit Amistad Housing Development Corporation. Overcoming local political opposition, Amistad board members and staff worked diligently to build community support and constructed thirty-five apartments for the farmworker families. The families pay one-third of their adjusted income for rent. The Amistad Farm Labor Housing Development is now a valued asset in the community and has been recognized as one of the finest examples of quality housing for farm laborers in the United States
Walter Moreau – activist houser
Walter Moreau is the Executive Director of Foundation Communities, an award-winning nonprofit provider of affordable housing in Austin. Mr. Moreau oversees the ownership and management of 1,900 units of affordable housing in the Austin and Dallas areas. Under his directorship, Foundation Communities has expanded its model of on-site supportive resident services, built two tax credit properties that are often mistaken for luxury apartments, built or greatly expanded seven community learning centers, launched Texas’s first Individual Development Account matched savings program, and created Austin’s first SRO housing for single homeless adults. Mr. Moreau is known in the housing community for his creative and strategic thinking, his fiscally conservative approach, and a deeply-held belief that everyone deserves a nice place to live.
Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. – government houser
Senator Eddie Lucio os the champion in the Texas Senate for Texas’ poor and colonia residents of the Texas-Mexico border.
In 2001 when the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs was crippled by mismanagement, Senator Lucio fought off attempts to abolish the departments and instead authored complex legislation that instituted reforms. Over the past years those reforms have proven successful in saving the state;s housing programs and in creating an effective and responsible state housing department.
Senator Lucio has a keen interest and abiding passion to see that all texans, regardless of their station in life, have the opportunity to live in a decent house.
Ramona Utti – community houser
Ramon Utti organized and successfully led her fellow residents at Fort Worth’s Ripley Arnold public housing development in a fair housing and public housing struggle.
Her work set a new standard for how housing authorities and city governments treat public housing residents.
Ramona Utti has emerged as a strong, fearless leader for low-income people in Fort Worth, a voice for public housing residents taking more responsibility in housing management and as an effective advocate for improving housing options for Fort Worth’s lowest income families.
We also recognize other Ripley Arnold residents who worked together in the struggle including: Eulice Butler, Frankie Wilder, Jr., Jani Hernandez, Bonji Robins, lonnie Brown and Tamika Brown.
Fred Fuchs – activist houser
Fred Fuchs, an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law, is widely recognized as the foremost attorney champion of housing rights for the poor in texas.
Over three decades Mr. Fuchs has blocked demolition of public housing, fought mismanagement in government housing programs, opened access for more poor people to housing, fought for and achieved desegregated housing for minorities and defended the rights of tenants. Mr. Fuch’s remarkable depth of expertise, his dedication and his intense caring have ably served to preserve housing and housing rights for thousands of poor Texans.
Harryette Ehrhardt – government houser
State Representative Harryette Ehrhardt was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1993 and served on the Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees housing programs.
Representative Ehrhardt is the leading champion of housing in the Texas Legislature. She is a tireless advocate for efficiency in state housing programs and she effectively demands attention to the housing needs of Texas’ poorest citizens.
She is the author of more than two dozen major housing bills including legislation reforming the state low income housing tax credit program and legislation providing accessible housing for people with disabilities.
Ora Lee Nobles – community houser
Ora Lee Nobles has been working on behalf of Austin’s Blackshear neighborhood for almost half a century.
As a founder and present of the Blackshear Residents Organization, Ms. Nobles worked to bring improvements to Blackshear and fought against the Urban Renewal project that destroyed homes and displaced many residents from this central East Austin community.
When Urban Renewal broke its promise to rebuild the houses it tore down, Ms. Nobles organized the nonprofit Blackshear Neighborhood Development Corporation. BNDC is one of Texas’ leading community development corporations.
The Blackshear Neighborhood Development Corporation built 28 homes for low-income families on the vacant Urban Renewal land giving a rebirth to the Blackshear Neighborhood.
Gretchen Lara Shartle – activist houser
Gretchen Lara Shartle is a crusader for the rights of the poor and oppressed. From Central America to the colonias of South Texas she has brought her considerable energy to bear for social justice.
In 1991 Ms. Shartle focused on the substandard living conditions of farmworkers in the colonias. She raised funds to permit the United Farm Workers Union in San Juan, Texas to develop a dream they had for better housing in which farm workers built their own homes on terms that werre affordable to them.
This new program, Proyecto Azteca, is now recognized as a national model for self-help housing.