Important Community Alert: More Low Income Housing on the Way for Sharpstown-Southwest Houston

Houston HCDD- VISTA ON GESSNER TWEET

A Dallas-based apartment developer, DALCOR AFORDABLE HOUSING, is attempting to acquire and convert the 20 acre apartment property at 6425 S. Gessner near Bellaire, to a dedicated, low-income housing complex. Located in the heart of Sharpstown, across from Strake Jesuit High School, this is reportedly part of a $105 million plan to rehab the 805 unit complex, using Federal tax credits and Texas Housing Bonds.

Notification of the project was sent as required by Texas Govt. Code 2306 to our various elected officials as well as the Sharpstown Civic Association. Given that none of this information has been shared with the community, this overview is a late, but well intentioned effort to make sure our neighborhood is informed.

Based on what we know at this stage, there is no reasonable basis for support and property owners and residents should consider formally opposing this project.

There is a proposed** public hearing by Houston City Council to be held on Wednesday, Nov. 8th, at 9:00 a.m. at City Hall. (**not yet approved by city council)

A community meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 8th at 6:30 p.m. at the Sharpstown Community Center, 6600 Harbor Town, where this project will be presented and discussed.

There is a scheduled public hearing by the Texas Dept. of Housing to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 14th, at 1:30 p.m. at the Walter Branch Library, 7660 Clarewood at Fondren. The hearing is regarding the issuance of tax-exempt bonds in an amount of up to $50,000,000 for this project.

The speaker list for the community meeting is to be determined, but every effort will be made to provide documents and resources so residents can express their views in an informed manner.

Based on an initial review, there are many reasonable concerns to have about this proposal. The plan appears to directly conflict with community efforts to revitalize and redevelop Sharpstown and Southwest Houston. This tract of land is directly connected to the westside of the Sharpstown Country Club Estates Subdivision and golf course, and would almost certainly constrict any future vision of redevelopment such as new grocery or more mainstream retail.

FACT PATTERN

This proposal has been approved by the Housing & Community Development Department, as Director Tom McCasland presented it to the City Council Housing Committee on Tuesday Oct. 17th, requesting Council approval.

The property is wholly located in City Council District F and CM Steve Le has not indicated his support or opposition at this time.

Housing Committee Chair CM Mike Laster (District J) supports the proposal and has indicated in writing he welcomes the renovation and restriction to low income tenants only.

The project will be financed with Texas Housing Bonds and federal tax credits and must be approved by both the State of Texas and Houston City Council to proceed.

Tenant eligibility for all units will be based on various income limits.

565 units are one bedroom (70% of total), with a two person occupancy ceiling and a maximum household income of no greater than $34,320. The remaining 240 units (30% of total) are two-bedroom with a five person limit and a household income limit up to 46,380.

Maximum rent collected per unit is $748 (one bedroom), and $896 (two bedroom).

MAP-to--Gessner-vista-APTStOVERVIEW

The project lifespan will be lengthy given tax exempt bond and federal tax credit financing, taking a very large tract off the market for any future commercial or housing redevelopment.

This area has the highest population density inside Harris County, with extreme demands on public safety services such as Police and Fire, so less density and alternate housing options are needed to spur economic growth.

The City of Houston (through TIRZ 20) subsidized a 140 unit affordable housing project by Midway companies at 7500 Bissonnet with a payment of $750,000.  This project was deemed a catalyst but has had no measurable economic benefit to the community. No additional retail or redevelopment has followed, and with crime remaining a serious issue in the area, the demand for increased public safety continues.

Investors considering projects in Southwest Houston would be less optimistic that ongoing street and infrastructure improvements would lead to a larger customer base with greater purchasing power.

As an example, the impact on PlazAmericas Mall may be negative as the income level of residents, and their limited disposable spending, discourages the leasing of space to mainstream retail.

This could be just the latest barrier for commercial redevelopment of the community as the expansion of the so-called social services corridor across Hillcroft and now bordering PlazAmericas Mall, creates a larger pathway for concentrating low income residents. This Sharpstown land, north of Sections 1 & 2, is now designated “Gulfton” as part of the Mayor’s Complete Communities program.

With the complex designated as low income only, their ceiling on rental rates may create a race to the bottom, where nearby owners will only be able to compete on price against a publicly-financed, Class A property. This could lead to deferred maintenance, less security, and poor conditions, just continuing and not breaking the housing cycle for southwest Houston.

SUPPLEMENTAL

There are other concerns relating to the proposed sales price of $50 million, when the property is appraised by the Harris County Appraisal District at $10.5 million. We are trying to determine if the property has been wholly undervalued for tax purposes for years, or if the seller will simply get a giant windfall.

Also, there are reports that the seller was recently involved with a Harvey Flooding issue at a nearby property  (Tenants Protest Deplorable Living Conditions- KHOU11) that required the intervention of Council Member At-Large Mike Kubosh.

There are many questions that will need to be answered first, and attempting to quietly push this through without informing the community is a pattern of conduct we’ve tolerated for far too long.

For More Information:

Jim Bigham
Director and Co-Founder
Southwest Houston Alliance
P.O. Box 270448, Houston, Texas 77277
Phone: 713/ 568-8124
Email: swhoustonalliance@gmail.com
Facebook: @swHouAlliance
Twitter: @SWHouAlliance

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