Stiff resistance kills low-income housing plan
Developers say they have abandoned a controversial subsidized housing project near Katy Mills mall after they failed to obtain a resolution of support from the Houston City Council by an April deadline.
A delay in consideration of the project effectively means the proposed apartments are out of contention for federal tax credits that would have helped finance the 200-unit project at the corner of Katy-Fort Bend County Road and Grand Harbor Drive.
I can't move forward with it," said Ray Smith, a director with Georgia-based Wood Partners and a spokesman for WP West Development Enterprises, the listed developer.
The Alta Harbor project's demise came after opponents marshaled resistance from state legislators, Houston and Katy city leaders, neighborhood homeowner groups, as well as school and economic development officials.
This was a group effort of all facets of the Katy community," said A.D. Muller, a spokesman for the nearby Falcon Point Homeowners Association. He said it was the first time in years" that all those groups had worked together on an issue.
It was pretty overwhelming."
Opponents said the project was a poor fit for the area, and would have burdened city emergency and school systems while hurting economic development near the mall. Muller said the developer kept the project quiet for good reason.
He was trying to go under the radar until luckily one of the neighbors stopped and read the sign," Muller said.
Smith expressed surprise at the level and breadth of opposition to the project, which he contends would have provided subsidized housing for working families that earn up to 60 percent of the area's median income. He drew a distinction between what he called affordable" or workforce housing" and the often unpopular public housing."
Residents of Alta Harbor would have been accepted only after a criminal background check, proof of employment and a credit check. The apartments would have been high-quality and included a gated entrance, he said.
Ideally, we've had really good reception after we complete these projects," said Smith, who said his company also developed the Alta Gardens and Alta Crossing projects in Houston.
Muller said opponents still intend to make an appearance at a Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs public hearing on the project scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, at Houston's City Hall Annex.
But Smith said the project needed to have a city resolution of support by April 1 in order to be considered for federal tax credits. District A Houston City Councilwoman Brenda Stardig's decision to tag" the project on March 24, and then Mayor Annise Parker's decision March 31 to send it back for further study effectively killed it, said Will Dabney, chief of staff for the northwest District A councilwoman.
Our reason for tagging the item was that it was an affordable housing tax credit and there wasn't any community support for that agenda item," said Dabney, who called affordable housing projects in existing neighborhoods a touchy subject."
If this development had had support from the community, we would have been more likely to support it," he said.
The federal Housing Tax Credit program gives tax incentives to developers who build affordable rental properties. The incentives allow them to offer the units at below-market rental rates.
Smith did not dismiss the possibility of finding another site in the Katy area.
I'd like to find another good site We'll probably have to work on the political process a little more next time"
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