Opposition to a Houston affordable housing project has noticeably escalated in recent weeks. While affordable housing is often a hot button issue, the opposition to this project says they are only against it because of its lack of planning and transparency on the part of the Houston Housing Authority (HHA).

HHA’s plan is to renovate their current headquarters at 2640 Fountain View and rebirth it as a 233-unit affordable housing complex. The organization’s goal is to start construction this year and begin leasing as early as the summer of 2018.

Last week, a community meeting held at Briargrove Elementary School regarding the project brought hundreds of residents out to voice their concerns. The planned development, which sits between Tanglewood and the Galleria, is zoned in Briargrove’s school district — creating a major point of contention because the school is already above capacity.

The most articulated concerns voiced about this project include:

  • Wasteful spending of $50 million in federal tax dollars
  • Abundance of affordable housing already in the area
  • Lack of transparency from HHA
  • Disregard of Briargrove Elementary capacity for both current and future residents
  • Largely commercial and high traffic area without green space or walkability

HHA analyses disagree with those of the opposition. The authority anticipates about 90 school age children would occupy the new residence, equating to roughly 7 per grade. They also point to the opening of Mark White Elementary, which is currently being constructed to provide relief to overcrowded area campuses. HHA says that their analyses dispel the claims brought about by the opposition and most of the pushback comes from residents’ fears of having low-income tenants in their neighborhood.

Both sides of the project have created websites to combat opposing narratives and garner support for their goal. The opposition created Stop Fountainview Project to inform Houstonians of their plan to push back while the proponents of the project created HHA Development.

Elected officials that represent the area and oppose the development have joined together in an unofficial coalition which includes: Houston City Council Member Greg Travis, HISD Trustee Harvin Moore, State Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston), State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place), and Congressman John Culberson. The group has also reached out to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush asking for intervention.

HHA says they are committed to proceeding with the project, but they may face a major hurdle – the City of Houston. The development plans must be reviewed and approved by the city before they issue HHA a building permit.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.