The need for affordable housing in Houston was great before Hurricane Harvey and was exacerbated by the storm. Regardless, we need reasonable housing costs in Houston so that our economy can continue to grow with a dynamic workforce and strong communities. For these reasons and more, I have made affordable housing a priority during my time as mayor and I will continue to do so.
Many of the recommendations cited in the report are already being implemented in some form, from building more affordable housing to creating land trusts to ensure long term affordability. First, we need to make sure that any housing is safe housing, as in safe from floodwaters in the next storm.
The City Council approved in 2018 my flood-reduction reforms, under Chapter 19 of the city building, after extensive debate, discussion and vetting with members of the public, developers and homebuilders, flood experts and other stakeholders. The Chapter 19 changes were fully thought out. But at the core, what the reforms have accomplished is essential to multi-family and single-family dwellings: They provide guidelines for saving lives and property, no matter the rent or price-tag on those homes.
Second, safe places to live must be within economic reach of every Houston resident. Thanks to my administration’s efforts, the State of Texas awarded the City of Houston six multi-family tax credit deals in 2018. This is a record-setting number of tax credit developments for the City and we anticipate receiving even more awards this year. In this program, landlords can claim tax credits in return for renting some or all of their apartments to low-income tenants for affordable rents as low as 30% – 60% of the Area Median Income.
In February, the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department issued a Notice of Funding Availability for up to $100 million to build or rehabilitate multifamily projects that provide affordable housing throughout the city. In many cases, residents want affordable housing to be the place in which they already live.
Working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, my administration has pioneered new policies that have streamlined the process for residents to obtain federal funding to repair their flood-damaged homes or be reimbursed for repairs already made.
Great neighborhoods can maintain affordable housing even as they improve and add amenities. My Complete Communities initiative leverages government, private and non-profit funding to improve under-served neighborhoods so that residents do not need to leave their homesteads to find affordable, quality neighborhoods.
We welcome research from non-governmental entities, such as the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, on the issue of affordable housing. To ensure that Houston is a city of opportunity for many generations requires strong partnerships. We need the private sector, philanthropy, non-profits, and academics working together with government to propose and implement bold new solutions to keep our housing market affordable. The city of Houston is doing our part and we urge the private sector to join us in this effort.
Please go to Houstonrecovers.org for extensive information related to these topics.