Within the past week a former city council member in Dallas, Carolyn Davis, plead guilty to taking bribes from an affordable housing real estate developer. The case illustrates how giving elected officials the power to approve or disapprove where affordable housing can be built using federal tax credits creates a situation ripe for corruption.
Texas State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, has introduced legislation to remove the temptation for corruption by removing the requirement that cities and state representatives write letters in support of affordable housing developments in order for developers to have a chance to be awarded the competitive 9 percent housing tax credits administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).
Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, said elected officials and developers who seek their favor “have repeatedly abused their role” in the state-run affordable housing tax credit award process. “We saw it again last Friday when a former Dallas City councilwoman pleaded guilty to taking some $40,000 in bribes in exchange for her support of an affordable-housing development,” he said.
Johnson’s bill would limit letters of support required during the housing tax credit application process to community organizations and neighborhood associations.
“It’s a shame that some elected officials cannot resist the temptation to abuse the public trust in order to enrich themselves,” he said. “But since they cannot, we must remove that temptation when it comes to Texas’ affordable housing tax credit program. It’s past time to end the corruption that surrounds affordable housing tax credits.”
Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, who is the Urban Affairs committee chair, where the bill would likely be referred, joined Johnson during the press conference yesterday. Button has already filed two bills aimed at addressing the issue. One would remove state representatives from the tax credit awarding process unless the proposed project is in an unincorporated urban area. The other would remove state representatives from the process completely.
Button reiterated that the Texas State Senate removed themselves from the process in 2013 and suggested the House should follow suit. She believes that local organizations and neighborhoods should be the ones to make decisions that impact their own neighborhoods.