City Helping Apartments Renovate

Houston officials are targeting two areas of town to improve apartments. The Apartments to Standard Initiative is now taking applications from interested apartment owners. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The two areas eligible for the program are the Greater Fondren Southwest area and the Broadway Hobby Airport area. Housing and Community Development Acting Director David Mincberg says in addition to the condition of the apartments, the city is taking into account when the complex was built.

"We're not really interested in those that are newer than 10 or 15 years and we're really not interested in those that are 35 or 40 years or older because in many cases they have out-lived their useful lives."

Money for the rehabilitation will come from federal funds and tax credits. Mincberg says apartments accepted into the program would receive grants from the city.

"The city will provide the money and we will the city will require the units be kept in what's called affordable status and if the owner, developer complies with those requirements over 15 years, the money will be completely forgiven."

Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia wants to make sure that as these older apartments are renovated that safety upgrades are included as well. One example: firewalls that help prevent fires from spreading.

"We need to make sure that they are places that a person can raise a family with dignity. But by the same token if we are going to use public dollars to make that happen, then we need to make sure our public investment is secure. And without, rehabbing these places without firewalls is, could be putting them at risk of wiping out our public investment with one fire."

Housing officials say those safety concerns are being discussed. Also being drafted is a habitability ordinance. It would require apartments to maintain a certain level of quality. That proposal could be before city council in the next month and a half. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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