Houston Housing Authority Authority Resigns In Wake of Briargrove Mixed-Income Kerfuffle

HOUSTON HOUSING AUTHORITY AUTHORITY RESIGNS IN WAKE OF BRIARGROVE MIXED-INCOME KERFUFFLE Proposed Housing Development at 2640 Fountainview Dr., Briargrove, Houston, 77057By both letter and Tweet, Houston Housing Authority chairman Lance Gilliam has announced plans to resign early following Mayor Turner’s criticism of the agency last week, writes Erin Mulvaney. During Wednesday’s council meeting, Turner chided the agency for not having constructed new housing units in the past decade (though Gilliam’s Friday resignation letter notes that thousands of additional people have been added to the organization’s voucher program). The agency has had the majority of its recent proposed construction projects blocked following last year’s US Supreme Court decision, which struck down Texas’s system of awarding public housing project tax credits because it was found to promote racial segregation into low-income areas (deliberately or not). The Briargrove project, which involved replacing one of the Houston Housing Authority’s own Fountain View office buildings with a mixed-income apartment complex, was the Houston agency’s first attempt to build new affordable units in a high-income area; following extensive neighborhood pushback, Turner asked the agency to look for other locations in the same area, and blocked tax credit financing for the project by not bringing it to a council vote. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed apartments at 2640 Fountain View Dr.: HHA

25 Comment

  • Niiiiice!

  • So, how much does Turner know about developing affordable housing in Houston? Regardless of his past experience, this speaks volumes about the difficulties in play with current guidelines and elected authorities.
    “Mayor Sylvester Turner slammed Houston’s housing authority Wednesday for not building new affordable housing in several years, yet he reiterated his opposition to the agency’s proposed development in an upscale Galleria-area neighborhood.”

  • Everyone likes affordable housing in theory, and almost no one likes it in practice.

  • Just wonderful. Let’s Make America Great Again! This restores some of my faith in America. Good show!

  • Arguments about low income housing aside, this is an interesting political development. Gilliam was cozy with Mayor Parker. Mayor Parker threw a lot of candy to developers in the form of 380 agreements and the massive downtown residential housing initiative. No new 380 agreements have come up before council since Mayor Turner took office. If big new projects like the Halliburton site or Tarket site do not get 380 agreements, it will be pretty clear that there has been a big shift in power in the Mayor’s office away from developers.

  • It’s a good time to call and end to 380 agreements. We had nearly run out of rich people to give them to and were about to have to give them to areas in actual need.

  • Housing cannot legally be built in low income areas, and we cant afford to build it in affluent neighborhoods… Sounds like the middle class is going to get some affordable housing.

  • @ Old School, I was just thinking that Gilliam was a holdover from the Parker administration. This kind of re-enforces my view that many things were just “on hold” so to speak during the latter part of her tenure. I’m glad to see Mayor Turner cleaning house and setting a new direction.
    @ Joel, I think this boils down to Turner knowing how to choose his fights, and knowing when to fold ’em. He saw he wasn’t going to win this going up against the Briargrove residents without a lengthy and costly fight. I may think the resident’s arguments were overblown, but in the end, it would have been years before this thing got built.

  • i dont understand any of this. if i want an affordable car i can buy a honda civic with no ac, manual transmission and roll up windows. if i want a bugatti, well then i’d have to work a little harder to get one of those….. i would really like to live in one of those fancy river oaks mansions, but i just can’t afford to….

  • @Shadyheitster, Wish I could agree but this just continues the precedence of Houston mayors bowing to wealthy neighborhood groups when they threaten the city So much for new directions.
    @Toby, This is about the cities ROI on affordable housing expenditures and a completely different topic.
    @MrClean, That does bring up a relevant question. Is there anything middle class & high opportunity still within the Houston city limits? I still consider this Fountain View part of uptown as being middle class already. There’s tons of old condo’s & townhomes still within reach for most folks.

  • That’s unfortunate. When Mr. Gilliam has popped up on Swamplot before (as himself, no less), he’s always been an open book and was willing to consider reasonable alternatives. Although his agency is hemmed in by conflicting local and federal political constraints, pushing it in a direction that he himself didn’t seem to want to go down, he clearly was trying to make the best of a bad situation. It was refreshing that a public figure — *any* public figure — would do that. And for it, he was nailed to the cross in the court of public opinion, the subject of one ignorant and snarky Chronicle comment after another. I can’t imagine that it would’ve been pleasant for him to try and continue making thankless progress with the new Mayor also chiding him.

  • Didnt Turner cite the lack of transparency as one reason he didnt like this deal?

    Gillium is far from an open book, no telling how much of a commission he was going to get on this deal.

  • Bocephus, please link to articles or actual specific concerns supporting such allegations. I get it, everyone wants to be a Radack in this city but if you’re going to slander someone and make damaging insinuations you need to put some skin in the game.

  • He went to Kinkaid & SMU so I’d think he has many connections in Texas. Hopefully he’ll land on his feet somewhere else. On LinkedIn he’s listed as a partner at Waterman Steele Real Estate Advisors.

  • Mayor Turner has capitulated. And risks litigation given the Supreme Court ruling last year. Not a profile in courage to be sure.

  • @ Bocephus: That comment makes me respect Mayor Turner quite a bit less because I have discussed these issues one-on-one with Mr. Gilliam publicly on Swamplot and found him to be very professional and open. Where there was fault or a potential fault or room for improvement, Gilliam was very forthcoming. It was refreshing. I suggest that you not take Turner’s word for it and do your own research.

  • In his statement Monday, Turner also cited the project’s $240,000 pricetag for each of the 233 units, including a $6 million development fee.

    Yea that $6mil in developments fees seems legit.

  • i think this is HHA’s snail darter case. In a famous US Supreme court opinion, the conservative justices harshly applied the endangered species act to force the demolition of a nearly completed hydroelectric dam because it would impact the endangered snail darter (a tiny fish that lived in the river). The conservatives knew that their harsh interpretation of the act would immediately cause congress to step in and change the law to weaken the protections.
    HHA has been frustrated by the supreme court ruling prohibiting the warehousing of subsidized housing in low income neighborhoods. I think the Fountain View project was HHA saying “ok, if this is what you want, get a load of this!” The cost was off the charts. It was dropped into the already busting at the seems Briargrove elementary school zone. It was pretty much a lock that everyone would freak out over the project. Gilliam’s departure just seems like a big mic drop on the hole affair.

  • Are there any quality Houston schools not busting at the seams though? All the magnets and quality neartown hoods are basically in the same exact boat. Briargrove is not a unique situation (or even a unique claim, it’s in the standard playbook for fighting affordable housing), but they happen to be one of the best positioned with funding in play to expand and absorb.
    The cost is certainly a concern for folks, but it’s important to keep an outside perspective on this in that these are not unique issues raised specifically for this Fountain View project. Even when proposed in strictly middle class hoods cost is still raised as a primary concern with folks asking how much more housing we could squeeze into 3rd ward or the bloody nickle.

  • @Joel: Briargrove is unique. They have no magnet program but are short on space due to zoned students. They just built a new building and are having their budget slashed due to the state requiring HISD to pay back funding as a rich district. Most of the other top HISD elementary scholols are magnets (River Oaks, Poe, Parker. TH Rogers, Travis, Harvard, Garden Oaks and Wilson) and could simply cut back magnet admissions to make room. Why not put subsidized housing in a school zone that needs more zoned students like Love, Memorial, Sinclair or Crockett and save a lot of money on land compared to the galleria while still being inside the loop?

  • Briargrove still maintains a massive advantage as it’s right near a major commercial/business district with great access to transportation and job opportunities. The Heights is much more isolated and average commuting times would double, if not triple or more. If the goal is to seek out high opportunity areas to ensure better potential return on value/outcomes for residents (and most notably the “community” of Houston itself) then it’s best to find something close to the Westheimer axis…in which case land will never be cheap.
    I think it really comes down to land acquisition though. Here they had the land as opposed to anywhere else where the development times would drag out longer for acquisition. That’s what stings when Turner complains about speed of development and not the issues in play.
    Do you really think opposition would be less fierce in any of these other areas though? They may not be as motivated to put as many lawyers on retainer, but the same fight would be had regardless of location, even if areas of lesser opportunity.

  • @ Old School, land prices around Love, Memorial, Sinclair and Crockett are already high. That is one reason Terry Grier’s HISD sold the land out from under Stevens Elementary, whose zoned students now have to traverse the Katy Freeway to attend Memorial Elementary. Inner-loop neighborhoods continue to change from low- to moderate-income populations in old single-family homes, to higher-income young families in expensive townhouses. “Affordable housing” in these areas is run-down 50-year-old apartment complexes. The push-pull between the socioeconomic extremes can be seen in the elementary school enrollments.

  • @ Old School: If that’s actually a problem, then re-zone the school (or the site) and move students to a school that has the capacity or that can shuffle around its programming. Come on now, its not like this has never happened before and that life hasn’t gone on. Furthermore, its not as though anybody currently zoned to Briargrove has a right to continue to be zoned to Briargrove. State-mandated public school districts are only mandated to serve all comers, not to preserve a tradition of socioeconomic segregation. If that’s what parents want then there exist private schools which can achieve those ends.

  • I dont understand. We must stop this high income gentrification in low income neighborhoods, but we cant build nice affordable housing there either?