HOUSING AUTHORITY: OUR FLOODED CLAYTON HOMES DEVELOPMENT WAS GOING TO BE DEMOLISHED ANYWAY A new statement from the Houston Housing Authority provides a little more background on its decision to demolish 112 of the 296 units at the authority’s Clayton Homes low-income housing neighborhood just east of Hwy 59 at the northern tip of EaDo. The homes were deemed “uninhabitable” after flooding from Hurricane Harvey triggered mold and other health concerns: “HHA decided demolition was the best course of action for the damaged units since the entire property is located on land acquired by eminent domain and will face eventual demolition for TxDOT’s I-45 freeway extension. When the remainder of Clayton units are demolished in a few years, the remaining residents will either be relocated to another public housing unit or receive HCVs.” Housing Choice (formerly Section 8) Vouchers — along with moving assistance and payments — are also being provided to residents of 82 out of the 100 units at another Housing Authority development, Forest Green Townhomes at 8945 Forest Hollow St. in northeast Houston, which the authority today announced had also been rendered unlivable by the storm. [Houston Housing Authority; previously on Swamplot] Photo of pre-Harvey Forest Green Townhomes: Forest Green
HOUSING AUTHORITY READY TO DEMOLISH MORE THAN A THIRD OF CLAYTON HOMES AFTER HARVEY FLOODING 112 of the 296 apartments at Clayton Homes have been deemed “uninhabitable” by its owner, the Houston Housing Authority, which is now seeking to demolish them. The affordable-housing complex tucked between Hwy. 59 and Buffalo Bayou north of Runnels St. in the northwest corner of the East End was flooded after Hurricane Harvey; subsequent investigations conducted by local researchers led by the New York Times and by the authority found numerous health and safety problems in the residences, including festering mold and high levels of E. coli. Submitting a demolition request for those units allowed the authority to receive and distribute “tenant protection vouchers” that will allow their residents to relocate to any voucher-accepting unit in the city, a spokesperson for the agency says: “Since Hurricane Harvey caused extensive damage to many of HHA’s public housing properties, housing options within HHA’s public housing program are now exhausted, which is why residents are receiving vouchers.” The agency says it is also helping Clayton Homes residents not eligible for the vouchers as well to find new homes — with relocation assistance services and one-time payments — and that it is refunding rents collected for periods when homes in the complex were uninhabitable. Photo: Apartments.com
LGBT SENIOR HOUSING COMPLEX IN THIRD WARD WON’T LIMIT BUILDINGS TO STRAIGHT GRID ORIENTATION Largely motivated by cases of out Houston seniors going back into the closet at the end of their lives for fear of discrimination from caregivers and housing providers, writes Brandon Wolf this week, the Montrose Center is now working on a 112-unit senior living complex geared toward (though not exclusive to) mixed-income LGBT folks. The Midtown Redevelopment Authority will give the project a parcel of land at 2222 Cleburne St. (set along 288 just 9 blocks south of about-to-reopen Emancipation Park) — but only if the Montrose Center can raise $1 million for the project by December 31. The complex’s 2 housing buildings, per a preliminary design by Smith & Company Architects, will be situated on the property at an angle to the street grid, both to make the facade less big-boxy and to pick up better natural lighting; Wolf also writes that “the apartment buildings’ outside staircases will be covered with mesh bearing the traditional colors of the rainbow—purple, blue, green, red, orange, and yellow.” [OutSmart] Rendering of LGBT senior living facility being planned for 2222 Cleburne St.:Mike Stribling, Smith & Company Architects
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
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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Following up on last month’s Supreme Court decision highlighting the segregation effects of Texas’s low-income housing programs, Chronicle reporter Jayme Fraser has a few observations about how the Housing Tax Credit program has been administered around here — after studying the above map, which she assembled to show the location and details of every Houston-area property involved in the program from its start in 1987 through 2013. Using federal funds, the Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs offers tax incentives to private apartment developers in exchange for guarantees to keep rents on new or rehabbed complexes below the market rate.
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Low-Income Housing Map
Maybe they’re not ready for tenants to move in, but these Fourth Ward shotgun houses seem to have avoided demolition and potential displacement to find a new home in Freedman’s Town. Originally located on Victor St., just a few blocks south of this formerly vacant lot at 1414 Robin St., the 3 houses weren’t doing much at the rear of the site of the proposed 5-story mixed-use Dolce Living development. A rep from the Fourth Ward Redevelopment Authority says that the houses were donated to the authority by the owners and will be preserved and renovated into low-income housing; designs for the new bathrooms and porches are already underway, the rep says.
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NIMBY IN PASADENA This scruffy corner at Genoa Red Bluff and Space Center, right on the border between Pasadena and Houston, is the proposed site of a few 90- to 150-unit housing developments for low-income residents — a category which can include seniors and those with disabilities, reports teevee’s Samica Knight. But one potential neighbor Knight interviews doesn’t seem likely to prepare any welcome baskets: “‘If I had been looking for a new home and there had been low income property across, I wouldn’t have chosen this neighborhood,‘ said Pasadena resident Janet McClellan. ‘I would be afraid of crime, more crime. . . . Everybody does have to have a place to live, but I just think there are better more appropriate places to build those kinds of homes.'” [abc13] Photo: abc13
So these apartments might not have the same shimmery glamour as their namesake, Beyoncé Knowles. But the pop star and Houston native, moved by the devastation in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, did chip in with her sister, Solange, and mother, Tina — as well as Destiny’s Child co-star Kelly Rowland, St. John’s United, and Temenos CDC — to help provide housing for Houston’s low-income and homeless populations.
The 43-unit building (shown above) at 1719 Gray went up in 2007. Now, Temenos has laid out on its website plans for a second building — with almost twice as many units as the original — at 2200 Jefferson, less than a mile away on the east side of I-45.
There’s no mention whether Beyoncé is involved in Phase II. But there are renderings:
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JACK JOHNSON, STILL DRAWING THE CROWDS IN GALVESTON On the agenda for the next meeting of GRACE, the homeownership organization in charge of The Oaks housing development at 4300 Broadway in Galveston: A discussion of Earl Jones’s sculpture of former world heavyweight boxing champion and Galveston native Jack Johnson, carved out of the trunk of a subdivision oak tree killed by Hurricane Ike. Homeowners association President Frank Rivera has been campaigning to have the stature moved. His complaint: That the Johnson statue was bringing a stream of tourists and other visitors to the neighborhood, creating traffic and disrupting the peace. But a canvas of residents over the weekend by 2 housing authority board members turned up only 2 who said they didn’t want the sculpture. [Galveston County Daily News; background; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Click2Houston
WHAT COUNTS FOR PUBLIC HOUSING IN HOUSTON The failure of the Houston Housing Authority’s “scattered sites” program has left the city agency as the proud owner of 174 vacant and decaying homes about town: “The houses, 365 in all, were purchased from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1987 and 1988. The agency upgraded the homes and opened them to public housing tenants as a way to provide rental houses to low-income families and eventually, a bridge for first-time homeownership. Since it began in the mid-1990s, the HHA program sold 191 houses, just over half. But in 2004, believing the houses would be more easily sold if renters weren’t living in them, they began moving tenants out. As of 2006, according to their records, 104 homes were still rented. Now, there are none. And yet, since 2007, just 27 houses have been sold – a mere dozen last year.” [Houston Chronicle]
Having awarded a “development of distinction” award last night to New Hope Housing’s Brays Crossing project, ULI Houston is now letting y’all see the promo video, a slightly different version of which we posted briefly last week. Details and videos on other award winners here.
Update, 1/21: Hey, what happened here? Urban Land Institute Houston executive director Ann Taylor writes in: “I’m sorry that we had to remove the New Hope Housing at Brays Crossing video, but it was not ready for prime time…still being edited to include more ‘before’ images and to add footage of the courtyards and gardens. It and all of the Awards Finalist videos will be screened for the public at the ULI Houston Development of Distinction Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 25.” We hope to post the finished video after that date.
Video: Cosmic Light Productions
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)]
LOW-INCOME VETERANS’ HOUSING IN BRIDGELAND U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates presented the keys to a new lakeside cul-de-sac home in Bridgeland yesterday to Purple Heart recipient Capt. Daniel Moran, USMC (Ret.). Moran, who was severely injured twice while on duty in Iraq, qualified for a low-cost housing program for disabled veterans administered by HelpingaHero.org. “The new 3,300-square-foot home was funded by the Strake Foundation, Rex and Marilyn King and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Perry Homes built it with special accommodations for Moran’s physical condition. It features tinted windows, a high-efficiency air conditioner and heating system and other enhanced temperature-control measures because Moran is no longer able to control his body temperature. The lot was selected to allow the least amount of direct sunlight into the home. The house also includes an extended covered porch to allow him to spend time outdoors with his two children, Trey 4, and Macy, 2, without direct sun exposure.” [DefenseLink]