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Judge tosses two claims from public housing lawsuit - The Galveston County Daily News : Local News

November 26, 2014

Judge tosses two claims from public housing lawsuit

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Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014 12:15 am

GALVESTON — A federal judge on Friday tossed two of the three remaining claims from a lawsuit seeking to halt the rebuilding of public housing on the island.

Judge Gregg Costa of the U.S. District Court in Galveston on Friday ruled that the public housing plan did not violate the federal Fair Housing Act. He also ruled that plaintiff Tryshatel McCardell couldn’t seek to stop the plan because of a violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2013 by the Galveston Open Government Project and several individuals. It claims that the Galveston Housing Authority’s plan to rebuild public housing would further segregation on the island. But Costa in April ruled that the advocacy group and all but one plaintiff didn’t have standing to sue to stop the plan.

For the lawsuit to succeed now, the plaintiff will have to prove the housing plan violates the U.S. Constitution, specifically the fifth and 14th amendments.

In his notice to both parties, Costa said that the Galveston Housing Authority’s plan to build 140 public housing units alongside a number of market-rate units on the site of the previous Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes housing projects didn’t violate the Fair Housing Act. Costa ruled the plan satisfied the law’s “safe harbor” provision.

Under the Fair Housing Act, any plan that would build 50 percent or less of the original number of public housing units on the site of a demolished public housing project does not violate the law. The two original housing projects had more than 280 public housing units.

In another order, Costa ruled that the plaintiff cannot seek relief from the Administrative Procedure Act. The act, passed in 1946, allows courts to review actions taken by federal agencies.

In his order, Costa said that since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had not made a final action on the Galveston housing plan, McCardell couldn’t use the act to halt the plan. Rather, the agency had only discussed the plan with local officials in conversations and letters, which did not constitute “final action,” Costa said.

Both sides are scheduled to meet in court Tuesday. Costa’s notice to the parties stated that the major focal point of the hearing will be on whether the plan violated the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiff argues in the lawsuit that the housing plan would further segregate the island, violating minority residents’ rights to equal protection under the law.