What Counts for Public Housing in Houston

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]

19 Comment

  • Who in their right mind would think the government would be good as a landlord? I know they think they know how to run properties as they always seem to be telling private owners what to do — but when they try to do it on their own it’s a (predictable) mess.
    If they government wants to help someone with housing, they can do it with a voucher. Though I’ve bought property that had people with vouchers and they end up paying much more rent than they should because the owners don’t want to have to deal with all the bullcrap that comes along with accepting vouchers (filling out W9 forms, inspections, delayed payment, multiple payments, etc.). So when they DO accept vouchers, they make sure they’re compensated for it.

  • Cody hit the nail on the head, I can’t think of a single thing the government does well, besides over-hiring of course.

  • Cody, I do not know much about this project, but I saw that Lance Gilliam has been called in by the Mayor to help. I would be very surprised if the program does not see some success moving forward.

    I would also like to add that the current federal policy of privatizing the development of low income properties and subsidizing them with tax credits based on development cost is just as much of a mess. There are some “low income” properties built in Houston that cost well over $150,000 per unit to build and people are paying a couple hundred bucks a month to live there.

  • “Who in their right mind would think the government would be good as a landlord?”

    Maybe I’m misreading this, but the impression I’m getting is that they were an OK landlord but screwed up big time when they decided to evict the tenants and sell the houses.

    I assume their are more people in section 8 housing than in this program, though. And my understanding is that Section 8 is a voucher program.

  • “there are more” … I hate when I press “Post Comment” without carefully reading the comment…

  • Yeah, stupid government, saddling us with the stupid internet, and interstate highway system, and rural electrification, non-poisonous food, clean drinking water, a functioning military… why are we burdened with these dumb things?

  • John (another one), don’t you know that it is cool and fun to hate on the guv’ment right now? Get with the times, brother!

  • All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

  • Kicking out tenants to try and sell the houses may have worked if they had someone go back in, fix it up and then they price it so it could flip over easily. My guess is they probably did none of these and it deteriorated further.

  • “Yeah, stupid government, saddling us with the stupid internet, and interstate highway system, and rural electrification, non-poisonous food, clean drinking water, a functioning military… why are we burdened with these dumb things?”

    Yes, all (or most) responsibilities given the Federal Government by The Constitution. Housing, education, health care…not so much.

  • The comment was about whether government was capable of doing things, not whether it should. Try to keep up!

  • This is what happens when the govt. takes over the job that churches and charities traditionally held.

    Big tax consuming saviours lead to even bigger problems.

  • Yes Craig, because the world was a variable utopia for everyone back when the church took care of things.

  • The framers didn’t allow for the formation of an Air Force under The Constitution either. Should we diasband it or should we surmise that just possibly they couldn’t forsee every possibility of the future?

  • I thought the comment about the gov’t not being a good landlord was on point. Investors generally don’t like buying properties from bad landlords because the properties tend to be in disrepair due to abuse by the tenant and neglect by the landlord. We have evidence that investors don’t want to buy these properties from the government. I know the Venn diagrams and all that, but “the current owner was a horrible landlord,” while not dispositive, is a helpful insight.

  • Reading the chron story it seems there is much more to this story than meets the eye. It reads more like there is a suggestion of a rogue employee or group of employees rather than a systemic failure. Someone sold the City on the idea of selling the properties once they were vacant and has since failed to make good on the prediction. In government and private industry alike that is someone supremely qualified for FUMU.

  • yeah, how do you intend to sell something and then simply don’t. are they pruposely trying not to sell below value when the homes are trashed on the inside and not worth book value. how long do they intend to keep them and what’s the current rate of loss taking into account loss of taxes, etc. why can’t they just take the loss, sell below value and get taxpayers living in them? without knowing the details the article says nothing, except that someone didn’t do a good job here.

    regardless, a home can’t be taken care of if nobody lives there so i can’t imagine this was the best of ways to go about this.

  • I agree with Lance Gilliam on the HHA Board and David Mincberg as Chair, the Board will hold staff accountable. It takes time to correct the misdeeds of the past. Meantime, with federal funds in a state of decline, the HHA must regain the trust of the public and of the tenants who are fulfilling their obligations.

  • Scary info. With the impending budget cuts to hud (in new budget passed last night), there is little hope these places will be fixed. The decay will get worse.