Houston Matters

Examining the Future of Affordable Housing in Greater Houston

The Houston Housing Authority is a city agency tasked with developing affordable housing in the city through a federal low-rent public housing program and a housing voucher program. HHA has proposed eight projects in the last three years. Five of them have been blocked, and while the agency has redeveloped existing properties, purchased land and […]

Photo: Michael Hagerty, Houston Public MediaThe Houston Housing Authority is a city agency tasked with developing affordable housing in the city through a federal low-rent public housing program and a housing voucher program. HHA has proposed eight projects in the last three years. Five of them have been blocked, and while the agency has redeveloped existing properties, purchased land and developed blueprints it hasn’t actually built any new housing in a decade.

The agency’s outgoing chair, Lance Gilliam, points to “third-party” roadblocks. Take two of the proposed projects, in Acres Homes and on Fountain View Drive: Mayor Sylvester Turner said he’d block the housing authority’s project at 2640 Fountain View (in one of the wealthiest zip codes in Houston) because the project’s per-unit cost was too high. And Gilliam says fair housing advocates criticized a plan to build affordable housing in Acres Homes because the neighborhood was, in his words, “too black and too poor.”

The root of the problem is this: fair housing advocates want such projects built in “high opportunity neighborhoods,” a policy upheld by the Supreme Court. But inevitably, residents in those neighborhoods question costs and the impact on property values, school population and crime. And with no formal affordable housing plan in place, identified projects don’t go forward.

How do we end this cycle and get some new affordable housing built in Houston?

We discuss that question with three guests: Chrishelle Palay, co-director, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service; Dr. Assata Richards, director of Sankofa Research Institute and the former chair of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s transition committee on housing; and Tom McCasland, interim director for Houston Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD).

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