Houston halts the approval of 19 projects related to affordable housing

Houston needs more affordable housing, but important initiatives aren’t starting because of disputes among municipal leaders.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Houston City Council decided to put off a critical decision on 19 proposed affordable housing developments.

The project developers are requesting approval from the city in order to move on with their applications for the lucrative “9 percent” Low Income Housing Tax Credit. This credit allows developers to impose lower rents by partially offsetting federal tax obligations.

The state-run programme is a major force behind Texas’s efforts to provide affordable housing. However, projects have a very difficult time getting approved if local government is not involved.

The vote was postponed for one week by District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas and At-Large 1 Council Member Julian Ramirez. Though Ramirez voiced concerns about the lack of information regarding the developers behind the proposed projects, Thomas did not give a justification for her decision.

He told the site, “I think it’s important for the public to know who stands to gain financially from the decisions we make.”

Houston’s approval of competitive housing tax credits has come under fire because the city decided to disperse its developments throughout the metro area. The city council last year withheld its authorization for a proposed project in the hip Upper Kirby neighborhood due to NIMBY protests.

Although there have been fewer approvals this year, District E Council Member Fred Flickinger is concerned about the proposal to build more cheap apartment buildings in Kingwood, next to the Eastex Motorway, an area that is already expanding quickly. He claimed there are no pavements or public transport options in the neighborhood.

The postponed vote highlights more significant problems with the city’s housing strategy. The lack of a comprehensive housing plan by Mayor John Whitmire’s administration has prompted calls for a more inclusive strategy for the creation of affordable homes throughout all districts, including affluent neighbourhoods.

Concerns have been expressed over the timeline’s suitability for in-depth study and discussion as the March 1 application deadline approaches.

Thomas expressed his concerns to the source, saying, “At this rate, I am worried the city may not create space for robust dialogue regarding projects that can potentially guard against the growing unaffordability in Houston.”

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