GALVESTON — A federal judge has issued a final ruling in a lawsuit that aimed to block the construction of two mixed-income housing developments on the island.
Judge Gregg Costa dismissed a claim that plans for the rebuilding of public housing in Galveston, in the form of two mixed-income housing developments, violate the federal Fair Housing Act.
In the complaint, Galveston resident Trysha McCardell claimed the plans perpetuate racial segregation in the city and fail to further fair housing in the ways required by the Fair Housing Act.
Costa ruled, however, McCardell’s argument could not stand because the Department of Housing and Urban Development properly approved of the demolition of the previous public housing developments in the city. McCardell’s lawyer argued that public housing could not be rebuilt in an area where it previously stood, if the demolition was not correctly approved.
In June, Costa signaled to the parties involved that he was going to dismiss the complaint, and the attorney for the Galveston Open Government Project asked for a final ruling so that the group would be able to appeal to a higher court. Costa also noted that the plans for housing met another requirement of the Fair Housing Act: that the number of public housing units built on the site is “significantly fewer” than what existed before.
The Galveston Housing Authority plans to build two mixed-income housing developments on the sites of the former Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes public housing developments.
The mixed-income developments will place 113 public housing units and 31 project-based voucher units alongside 138 market-rate apartments and town houses.
The public housing units are meant to replace public housing that was torn down following Hurricane Ike. Before being torn down, Cedar Terrace, at 2914 Ball St., contained 139 public housing apartment units.
Magnolia Homes, at 1601 Strand, contained 133 public housing apartments.
The plans to rebuild public housing have been surrounded by controversy for years, culminating in a lawsuit brought last December by group of island residents called the Galveston Open Government Project, as well as a number of individual Galveston County residents who said they opposed the housing construction for various reasons. During the course of the lawsuit, most of the plaintiffs were dismissed from the complaint for a lack of standing, leaving only McCardell, who claimed that the construction of public housing units would have a detrimental effect on the neighborhood she resides in.
During court proceedings in June, Costa indicated to attorneys that he was inclined to dismiss McCardell’s Fair Housing Act claim. Later that month, the Open Government Project asked the court to reconsider parts of an earlier dismissal of a preliminary injunction. The defendants subsequently asked for a summary judgment on the final remaining count that Costa had left pending in June. The Open Government Project opposed that request, despite its lawyer’s previous indications that it wanted such a judgment.
Costa’s ruling Wednesday granted the summary judgment and refused to reconsider his previous ruling on the injunction.
The Galveston Housing Authority expects to finalize financial agreements this month that will allow construction developments, now renamed The Cedars at Carver Park and the Villas on The Strand, to begin later this year.