Houston Affordable Housing Crisis
By Tanya Lavelle, TAAHP Policy Director
July 6, 2017
On Monday July 3rd, the New York Times ran a story profiling housing discrimination in Houston. Over the past year Houston has remained in the national spotlight for preventing a mixed-income affordable housing development from being built in an affluent part of the city. In January HUD threatened to take Houston to court over the decision, which city officials defended by citing high project costs. However, as is the case with many other failed developments proposed for low-poverty areas of Texas, organized opposition groups played a major role in the decision-making process.
NIMBY opposition is prevalent in LIHTC applications proposed in high-opportunity areas. At a public hearing about the development, some of the reasons people opposed the Houston development included elementary school overcrowding, a drop in local property values (evidence proves otherwise), and concerns about the intermingling of people of “different socioeconomic status.” As is evidenced in this article, organized NIMBY opposition can have a major impact on the actions of local and statewide elected officials, and ultimately result in the failure of an application.
While NIMBY opposition is often based on misinformation and bias, it is nonetheless a major part of the community input process for LIHTC applications. Texas is the only state that considers letters of opposition from elected officials in its QAP, a practice that has been identified by the IRS as inconsistent with program practices and discriminatory. Removing these letters from the QAP was TAAHP’s #1 legislative priority during the 85th Legislative Session. We educated elected officials and their staff about the importance of affordable housing and the negative consequences of these letters. Though we ultimately did not achieve the outcomes we wanted this legislative session, TAAHP will continue to work with legislators and allies to remove these biased letters from the QAP. LIHTC developments should be judged on their merits, not personal opinions.
Chrishelle Palay of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service was featured in this article, which you can read in its entirety here.