The Housing and Community Development Department is trying to get support from Mayor Sylvester Turner and council members for their proposed recommended affordable housing developments that will be located across council districts in the city.
Houston City Council voted on Wednesday on a resolution in support of fourteen new affordable housing projects. The Housing and Community Development department initially started with 33 proposals, but ultimately whittled the list down to 16.
Council delayed making a vote on two of the projects that are facing criticism from some residents. Felicity Oaks in Upper Kirby is a 120-unit development located on 4041 Richmond Avenue in District G. The Upland near the Memorial City area is a 165-unit located at 1430 Upland Drive in District A.
During the city's housing committee meeting last week, a number of residents expressed their opposition towards the proposed developments in their neighborhoods. They cited infrastructure issues, the lack of limited walkability to schools and parks, traffic, and describing the Felicity Oaks neighborhood as a food desert – as reasons why they can't support the development.
The Housing and Community Development Department Director Keith Bynam said he doesn't agree with some of the feedback from residents.
"Everything they're coming up with as to why it shouldn't be built, they can identify those as reasons why they probably shouldn't be living in that neighborhood either," he said.
The Competitive 9% Housing Tax Credit program is an important step for building affordable housing. The projects are federally funded and they allow private developers to charge rent at a lower cost to offset their tax liability. The State of Texas ultimately decides which projects will get the 9% tax credit, but the developers need the support of the city for the application process.
Bynam said developers rely on the tax credit program to build affordable housing in the state and getting council's approval is a major step in the process.
"The tax credit is a very competitive market, and they need the support from the city in order to enhance their chances of getting the tax credit from the state," he said.
The two developments that were tagged were separated out from the initial resolution which brought upon a major discussion during council. Council Member Edward Pollard tried to separate the Cypress Crossing project that's not currently in his district, but will be next year – due to redistricting. Council Member Abbie Kamin was against singling out properties.
"The fact that we’re separating out any housing items right now, I don’t think is in line with what our agreement and understanding with HUD was to begin with."
In 2017, the city was found in violation of the Civil Rights Act due to Mayor Sylvester Turner and city council objecting to an affordable housing complex in the Galleria Area.
Felicity Oaks is located in Council Member Mary Nan Huffman’s district. She said her constituents are outraged by the lack of community engagement by the developer.
“After 12 people came and spoke at the committee meeting, he still didn’t engage with them, and there was an HOA president here at that meeting, and so that is why I have separated this one," she said.
Mayor Turner said the tag will give developers time to engage with community members and hear their concerns since residents feel the developers for those neighborhoods have not been transparent.
Council Member Tiffany Thomas, who is also the Chair of Housing said, people are misconstruing what it means when new housing developments come into different areas.
"The idea that there’s a new group of people that are coming to our communities for these developments is false," she said. "We’re talking about seeing yours and families that already live within your district that are seeking new construction, affordability, longer periods of affordability, energy efficient units – which will then minimize their utility bills, that puts them direct access so they can get out of the C Class apartments – the developments that have been there since 1975.”
Council will vote next week on whether or not to provide a resolution of support for the two additional developments.