The Houston Housing Authority (HHA) proposed mixed-income housing development is still drawing a divide with Galleria residents. Recently, many of the project’s supporters have taken the disagreement to new lows and by implying those standing in opposition are in favor of public segregation.
That just isn’t the case.
A recent article by Jon Henneberger, the co-director of Austin-based Texas Low Income Housing Service, referred to the very serious reality of overcrowding of Briargrove Elementary School as a mere inconvenience. However, most would agree that displacing a number of students zoned to Briargrove School and redistributing them to campuses across the district is more than an inconvenience.
The solution that many supporters, Henneberger included, offer to ease overcrowding is simple—more debt. In his article, Henneberger says the answer is “new bonds to fund additional elementary schools in growing neighborhoods.”
The argument has also been made that bringing students from low opportunity areas to Briargrove would be beneficial because of the diverse atmosphere.
History has shown that throwing money at an issue without implementing reform rarely fixes the problem. Henneberger also fails to acknowledge that HISD taxpayers passed the largest school bond in Texas history just four years ago for that exact purpose, yet this problem of overcrowding persists.
Mark White Elementary is being built to absorb some of the overflow, but according to HISD that too will be at maximum capacity as soon as it opens. HISD estimates that between 60 and 70 zoned students would be displaced by this project.
Supporters of this project have yet to explain how increasing commute times for elementary aged children is in their best interest.
Another legitimate reason many are opposing this project is cost.
The Fountain View “affordable” housing complex is reportedly going to cost $270,000 per unit to build. Meanwhile, the building directly next door, 2626 Fountain View, has 281 units. Using its appraised value, the building has a per unit cost of only $135,000—half that of the “affordable” housing complex.
Even if you adjust for the same number of units as 2640 Fountain View the unit next door would still only be $163,000 per unit, over one hundred thousand dollars per unit cheaper than HHA’s planned partially taxpayer-funded development.
Comparatively, 24Eleven Washington, a privately developed luxury apartment complex in Midtown only averages $216k per unit with 222 units. Why should the taxpayers pay for affordable housing that costs more per unit than that of luxury apartments in Midtown?
Supporters of the development argue that the opposition simply does not want low-income neighbors. However, little evidence has been provided to defend such an assertion.
Residents aren’t making the argument that mixed-income housing should be exclusively kept in low-opportunity neighborhoods. Rather, this project is being opposed because it is not an efficient use of taxpayer dollars and HHA officials ignored documented concerns of local elected officials who have opposed this project since its conception.
A brief conversation with Harvin Moore, the HISD trustee representing the area, shows there are several high-opportunity areas, with room for additional students that HHA has the opportunity to pick from. Despite such selection, the HHA still refuses to work with the representative bodies to determine a proper location.
Is there a need for affordable housing in Houston? Yes, but many taxpayers argue that 2640 Fountain View is not the answer.