College Station city staff complete training to better promote fair housing practices

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 10:35 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - City staff members in College Station’s Community Development Department recently completed training that will help them better promote fair and affordable housing practices throughout the community.

Staff says they learned more about the Fair Housing Act and the protected classes within that act. Community Development Analyst Raney Whitwell says one of the big takeaways for staff is that communication is one area they need to focus on more.

“We learned a lot of great tips on how to really reach out to the broader community,” Whitwell said. “We learned tips on how to communicate better with non-English speaking residents and also residents with disabilities.”

Whitwell says there are some gaps where the department is excited to make progress to ensure they’re more inclusive.

“We are in the process of working with the Spanish language newspaper,” Whitwell said. “We’re also going to start pushing things out on social media and through some of the nonprofit groups that deal with that subset of the population so that they know their rights too.”

Shannon Van Zandt is the head of Texas A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. She says this outreach is a good first step.

“Community engagement and communication with the community is super important in terms of trying to rectify historic segregation issues in any community,” Van Zandt said.

But Van Zandt believes the city needs to do more to really get to the bottom of fixing access to affordable housing that might exist. She says when affordability is restricted too much, it can have a disparate impact, which restricts lower-income families from living in a community that are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities.

“I would recommend that the city do an equity audit of its comprehensive plan and its codes and ordinances to see if there are kind of implicit bias against non-native English speakers or certain income levels,” Van Zandt said.

She also suggests the city take a look at the amount of land that is zoned for multi-family versus single-family housing.

“Things like that can inadvertently limit the amount of affordable housing that is constructed, which can be a way of discriminating against some of our lower-income households,” Van Zandt said.

The city wants to remind residents the eviction moratorium is ending at the end of June. Whitwell says those who need additional resources or assistance can reach out to the county.

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