Houston hits pause on approving 19 affordable housing projects

Vote delayed by a week due to concerns over transparency, inclusivity

Houston Hits Pause on Affordable Housing Approvals
Mayor John Whitmire and council members Tiffany Thomas and Julian Ramirez (Getty, City of Houston, Julian Ramirez Campaign)

Houston needs more affordable housing, but quarrels among local officials are preventing key developments from getting off the ground. 

The Houston City Council opted to postpone a crucial vote involving 19 proposed affordable housing projects, the Houston Chronicle reported

Developers behind these projects are seeking endorsement from the city to proceed with applications for the competitive “9 percent” Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which enables developers to charge lower rents by offsetting a portion of federal tax liabilities.

The program, managed by the state, is a significant driver of affordable housing initiatives in Texas. However, without local government support, projects face significant hurdles in gaining approval.

District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas and At-Large 1 Council Member Julian Ramirez managed to delay the vote by a week. While Thomas didn’t provide a reason for her decision, Ramirez expressed concerns over the lack of transparency regarding the developers behind the proposed projects.

“I think the public deserves to know who is benefiting financially from the decision that we make,” he told the outlet.

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Approval of competitive housing tax credits in Houston have been criticized since the city’s strategy of spreading the developments around the city. NIMBY objections to a proposed project in the trendy Upper Kirby neighborhood led to the city council withholding its support for it last year.

This year’s approvals are more subdued, but District E Council Member Fred Flickinger is worried about the plan to add affordable apartment complexes to an already rapidly growing area, near Eastex Freeway in Kingwood. The area lacks sidewalks and access to public transportation, he said. 

The delayed vote sheds light on broader issues within the city’s housing policy. Mayor John Whitmire’s administration has yet to establish a comprehensive housing plan, prompting calls for a more inclusive approach to affordable housing development across all districts, including affluent neighborhoods.

With the March 1 application deadline looming, worries have been raised about the timeline’s adequacy for thorough review and discussion. 

“At the current pace, I am concerned the city may not create space for robust dialogue regarding projects that can potentially guard against the growing unaffordability in Houston,” Thomas told the outlet.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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