HOUSTON HOUSING AUTHORITY AUTHORITY RESIGNS IN WAKE OF BRIARGROVE MIXED-INCOME KERFUFFLE By 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
The pale arrow pointing from W. Beltway 8 to Downtown in the map of Houston above is made up of census blocks recorded as more than 50 percent white, according to a post by Will Livesley-O’Neill for Texas Housers yesterday. The Austin-based nonprofit, which researches low-income housing policy around the state, published yesterday’s article as a followup to some previous posts about the mixed-income housing complex that HHA is planning for the site of its own office building on Fountain View Dr. in Briargrove. The demographic breakdown on the other 3 shades shown on the map, from lightest to darkest: 50 to 25.01 percent white, 25 to 5.01 percent, and 5 to 0 percent.
The map also marks the locations of existing Houston Housing Authority public housing developments as red stars, mostly outside of or skirting the majority-white census blocks; the proposed Fountain View housing site is singled out, tagged, and marked with a green star. Meanwhile, the black outline looping mostly around the majority-white areas is lassoing the market areas deemed strongest by the Reinvestment Fund‘s Market Value Analysis for the city.
Map: Texas Housers
Here are some shots from the scene of the Houston Housing Authority’s office park on Fountain View Dr. north of Westheimer Rd., which the organization is planning to partially demolish and replace with a 233-unit mixed-income apartment complex. The sign shown here went up last month to advertise this week’s public meeting on the proposed construction, which drew standing-room-only crowds to the auditorium of Briargrove Elementary. A group of neighborhood residents is campaigning to stop the project; listed grievances include a lack of transparency surrounding the project, and asserting that school overcrowding wasn’t considered when HHA picked the spot.
The property, just north of the vacant H-E-B northwest of the corner with Westheimer, currently holds 2 office buildings sporting gently-bent-rectangular floorplans (that’s 2650 in the foreground, in the photo above, with 2640 behind it). An aerial rendering released by HHA shows 2640 swapped out for the apartment building, with the southern office building still in place below it:
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: A BRIEF ANNOTATED HISTORY OF ALLEN PARKWAY VILLAGE’S DIRTY NEIGHBOR “Wow, I never knew there was a waste incinerator right in the Fourth Ward. Here’s a handy timeline:
Post-Civil War: Freed slaves construct their own neighborhood in the Fourth Ward.
1917: Camp Logan Race Riots are sparked off when a Houston policeman beats a black soldier in the Fourth Ward.
1920s: Gillette incinerator is built (PDF) right in the Fourth Ward.
1944: San Felipe Courts (today’s Allen Parkway Village) were built next to the incinerator. They were originally intended as public housing for the city (following a New Deal movement for public housing in the 1930s) but ended up being handed over to the defense department to exclusively house white WW2 veterans (PDF). The other motivation was to ‘clean up the slums’ along Allen Parkway for passing commuters.
1964: San Felipe Courts are desegregated following the Civil Rights Act and renamed to Allen Parkway Village.
1970s-90s: Developers advocated for APV’s demolition arguing that the public housing’s costs didn’t reflect the land’s ‘highest and best use.’ Meanwhile, the housing deteriorated due to neglect by the Houston Housing Authority and HUD. Residents organized and protested demolition leading to APV’s rebuilding in 1997.
Today: The city can now cash in by selling a plot of polluted land next to APV now that the Fourth Ward is gentrifying.” [Carpetbagger, commenting on The Best the City Can Get for Gillette; Not Jus Donuts’ Extreme Cakeover] Illustration: Lulu
HOUSTON HOUSING AUTHORITY HOPING TO FIND BUYERS WHO ARE MORE WELL-TO-DO The Houston agency charged with providing affordable housing options has come up with an interesting response to criticism that it’s been giving the runaround to low-income applicants trying to buy the more than 200 homes it has for sale. Potential buyers and real estate agents tell Fox 26’s Randy Wallace that the Houston Housing Authority “would constantly make requirement changes even with verbal and written contracts in place.” As a result, the authority has only closed on 7 of the homes in the last 6 months. Too late to be included in the TV report, HHA Vice President for External Affairs Dennis Spellman sends Wallace a letter with some exciting news! The organization has decided to do away with income requirements for its Scattered Sites home program. Yes, that means that low-income applicants earning less than 80 percent of the area’s median income will now have the opportunity to bid against more well-off buyers for the same properties. [MyFox Houston, via Texas Watchdog; HHA response letter (PDF)]
Right on time for tonight’s public meeting, Swamplot’s “Bottom” of the Fifth Ward correspondent Vaughn Mueller sends in a bit of information about the proposed redevelopment of the Houston Housing Authority’s Kennedy Place apartments:
It is located in lower fifth ward, bounded by Bayou, Gillespie, Meadow and Baron streets. According to the HHA, it was built in 1982 but in its current condition, it looks reminiscent of a 1950-1960 1-story development. There is currently no central AC or heat in any of its 60 units.
In mid July a sign was put up out front describing the construction. Soon after, we received a notice of public meeting in the mail also describing the construction. The meeting is set for August 18th. The new development will contain 108 new apartments, 88 of which are going to be government assisted while 20 are going to be market rate.
The proposed site plan:
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