Today, Houston City Council approved an ordinance creating a $5 million fund for the voluntary relocation of citizens living near an area with an elevated incidence of cancer as identified by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDSHS).
The Houston Health Department (HHD) learned in 2019 that an analysis conducted by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDSHS) found elevated counts of cancers in certain areas of the Kashmere Gardens community. The analysis found cancers of the larynx, lung and bronchus, childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia and esophagus at statistically higher than expected rates in certain census tracts. For example, 185 cases of childhood leukemia, larynx, liver and lung and bronchus cancers were identified from 2000 to 2016, the period of the cancer cluster assessment.
"The City of Houston has a moral obligation to the extent we can set up this fund to allow some people an option if they choose to relocate. We will work out the details of this plan in collaboration with the community," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "The only thing we are doing is creating the fund. It is important for us to put the weight of the City behind the people who have been fighting this issue for a very long time."
HHD is working with TDSHS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to more fully define present-day risks to address community concerns about the identified elevated cancer levels.
The City’s Plan for use of the newly created fund is to provide voluntary relocation assistance options to property owners and renters living near areas where elevated cancer levels have been identified. The current boundaries for relocation assistance are north of Liberty Road, west of Lockwood, east of Wipprecht and south of Jewel. The total area encompasses 110 parcels. However, only 41 lots are residential properties.
The city will work with the Houston Land Bank (HLB), the Community Land Trust (CLT), and others to assist with implementation of relocations to areas outside the identified cancer cluster area.
Oversight of the program will be by the Office of Recovery.