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MacArthur today named its 2014 class of MacArthur Fellows, recognizing 21 exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future.

Fellows will each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, paid out over five years. The Fellowship comes with no stipulations or reporting requirements, and allows recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions. “Those who think creativity is dying should examine the life’s work of these extraordinary innovators who work in diverse fields and in different ways to improve our lives and better our world,” said Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows Program. “Together, they expand our view of what is possible, and they inspire us to apply our own talents and imagination.”

The MacArthur Fellows work in diverse fields and often across multiple disciplines. This year’s Fellows include John Henneberger for his work designing new strategies to address persistent social challenges such as securing fair and affordable housing.

John Henneberger is an advocate for fair and affordable housing who has created a new paradigm for post-disaster rebuilding. The devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina exposed the failure of federal, state, and local governments to adequately respond to the needs of the poor and of persons with disabilities. Skilled at identifying points of agreement among parties with varying, often opposing, economic interests and political views—such as developers, elected officials, and community members—Henneberger was an architect of a conciliation agreement with the State of Texas for Hurricanes Dolly and Ike post-disaster rebuilding.

On being named a 2014 MacArthur Fellow

I am deeply honored today to be named a 2014 MacArthur Fellow by the MacArthur Foundation.

This recognition comes to me in large part because of my association with an extraordinary group of colleagues and associates and the importance of the issues we work on together. My colleagues and associates include neighborhood leaders called to fight inequality, discrimination and injustice, community organizers, policy experts and advocates, academics, government officials, and community developers. Together, we work for decent, affordable homes, fair housing and neighborhood equality. We believe these things must be realized both as a matter of justice and in order to solve our country’s most important social and economic problems.

We are using a powerful tool to advance these objectives— the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Yet, the promise of Fair Housing is far from fully realized. We can see evidence of housing discrimination in the results of testing that show widespread disparate treatment of people of color when they buy or rent a home and in persistent residential racial segregation. We can see it in the failure to provide and maintain basic public infrastructure in neighborhoods where people of color live, and in the environmental hazards that are concentrated there. And there is a need for Fair Housing advocacy to contest the wholesale displacement of lower-income people of color through the gentrification of neighborhoods.

My five year MacArthur Fellowship will seek to advance fair housing, affordable housing and neighborhood equality in five areas:

  1. fair housing and neighborhood rights campaigns led by leaders from lower-income communities, organized by the incomparable Texas Organizing Project (TOP) and the Galveston County Collaborating Organizations,
  2. ensuring Hurricane Ike and Dolly disaster rebuilding affirmatively furthers fair housing with our partner Texas Appleseed led by our dedicated colleague Maddie Sloan,
  3. developing a rapid post-disaster housing rebuilding model that treats lower-income people fairly, based on the RAPIDO initiative of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville and bc/Workshop,
  4. securing decent living conditions in Texas border colonias through initiatives led by resident leaders of colonias organized by La Unión Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), and
  5. building a citizen’s movement to expand affordable housing and integrated neighborhoods in Austin.

Between now and the start of the MacArthur Fellowship in January I will be working with the staff and board of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (TxLIHIS) to determine how to best advance the work in these five areas using the financial resources from the MacArthur Fellowship and other sources. I am especially interested in developing support for grassroots community leaders working through community organizing groups like the Texas Organizing Project, La Unión Del Pueblo Entero and A Resource in Serving Equality.

Since 1988 TxLIHIS’ work has been made possible through major funding from the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation, Boone Foundation, Meadows Foundation, Houston Endowment, Rockefeller Foundation, Foundation for Expanding Horizons, as well as support from individual donors and a number of nonprofit and for profit corporations. We do not accept government funding.

My colleagues at the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and I are especially privileged to support the work of neighborhood leaders. Real change happens when citizens organize, define a problem facing their community and work together to solve it. This is the power of democratic action, and we are proud to support organized citizens who are working to fix the problems in their neighborhoods and secure their civil rights.

I thank the MacArthur Foundation. I share the recognition of the MacArthur Fellowship with each of you we work with and who have supported us over the years.. Every day remember how very important our work together really is.