Ballard Spahr Wins Injunction for Houston, Blocks GLO Takeover of Hurricane Harvey Recovery Money
A team of Ballard Spahr Housing and Litigation attorneys representing the City of Houston recently secured a temporary injunction stopping the Texas General Land Office (GLO) and its Commissioner, George P. Bush, from removing almost $1.3 billion of Hurricane Harvey disaster relief funds from the City’s administration. The funds help Houstonians repair and rebuild storm-damaged homes and construct thousands of new affordable rental units. The injunction will last until final resolution of the dispute is decided at trial.
In 2018, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) directed the funds to the City of Houston, which entered into a contract with the GLO that provided that the City would administer the relief funds to its citizens. The City made significant progress in implementing its programs and helping its residents. Despite this progress and being on-track to meet the contract’s deadline for expenditure of the funds, the GLO announced in April of 2020 that it planned to take over the funds and eliminate City programs. The GLO proposed to replace only some of the City’s programs with its own.
The City sued in Travis County, asking the court to stop the GLO from taking actions with HUD that would give the GLO control of the funds. It presented evidence that the GLO’s actions would have resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in affordable housing projects the City planned to fund construction for—developments that would create approximately 3,500 housing units. The GLO’s new plan for the funds violated the law by disregarding the City’s community-informed and HUD-approved needs-based prioritization of seniors, individuals with disabilities, and families with children. Instead, the GLO’s program would have distributed the funds on a first-come, first-serve basis that would have risked leaving the most vulnerable Houstonians behind.
The court’s granting of the temporary injunction prevents the GLO from taking further action to try to take away the City’s funding while the case proceeds to resolution at trial.
“We were delighted to be able to secure this win for our client and for the people of Houston, who will undoubtedly benefit from the City’s administration of the funds,” said Amy M. Glassman, one of the Ballard Spahr Partners who led the team.
“With these funds, the City will create a more resilient Houston—one that is better prepared and better equipped to protect its residents against future storms,” said Mr. Panagopoulos. “We’re proud to have helped the City protect its right to this relief.”