More than 800 people signed an online petition opposing the development of an apartment complex in the Garden Oaks area that would have catered to low-income renters.
Those community members, who cited traffic and flooding concerns among the reasons for their opposition, can rest a little easier now.
New Orleans-based developer SBP, which planned to build a 60-unit complex on a 1-acre site at 909 Fisher St., did not receive the 9 percent federal housing tax credits it was seeking from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). As a result, a representative of the nonprofit developer said it will not be able to fund the project.
“We’re glad that the concerns of the community were taken into account,” said Garden Oaks resident Heather Collins, who signed the online petition along with her husband, John. “Because while we all agree affordable housing is necessary in the area, this project didn’t bring a lot of bang for your buck for affordable housing. The developer unfortunately was unable to meet our concerns.”
As part of its annual, statewide program to help finance the development or rehabilitation of residential properties that offer reduced rents, the TDHCA on July 22 awarded developers nearly $84.7 million in housing tax credits to be applied to a total of 70 properties consisting of more than 5,100 rental units. According to the TDHCA, developers use proceeds from the sale of the credits as financing for the properties, with investors able to apply the credits toward their federal tax liability each year for 10 years on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
Ten projects in Houston were each awarded $1.5 million annually in tax credits, including a 117-unit apartment complex for the elderly to be located in Timbergrove. The Campanile on Minimax, planned for the southeast corner of Minimax Drive and West Loop 610, will include 93 low-income units and 24 market-rate units.
Developer Les Kilday, listed as the contact for the Campanile project by the TDHCA, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
According to the latest application log on the TDHCA website, the Fisher Street Apartments finished one spot out of the running among the Houston projects that were competing for the tax credits. The Boulevard 61 project on Richmond Avenue was the 10th and final in the region to be awarded, compiling 165 points in the TDHCA’s scoring system, while the Fisher Street project tallied 162 points.
Competing projects accumulate points as part of the TDHCA's extensive scoring process, with a range of point totals awarded for variables such as tenant incomes and rent levels, size and quality of units, proximity to jobs and other opportunities, public engagement and support from community members, local governments and state representatives.
“We were disappointed that the Fisher Street Apartments development didn’t score highly enough to receive tax credits this round; without the tax credits, we won’t be able to fund the development,” said Lauren Avioli, the director of housing development for SBP. “However, we’re looking forward to undertaking another development somewhere in Houston next year, and we want to continue to help Houstonians of all income levels build resilience before disaster.”
Collins said she thinks a letter of neutrality submitted to the TDHCA by State Rep. Penny Morales Shaw, who represents the area as part of District 148, was a significant factor in SBP’s failure to receive the tax credits. A letter of support from Shaw would have given the developer an additional eight points, while a letter of opposition would have resulted in a deduction of eight points.
No points were associated with the letter of neutrality from Shaw, who said in March that she recognized the need for more affordable housing options in the neighborhood. But she also said she was concerned the Fisher Street project could negatively impact traffic and structural flooding in the immediate area.
Shaw’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the TDHCA’s recent awards.
“From our understanding, Shaw’s letter was a big factor,” Heather Collins said. “She really took the time to listen to people from all sides of the issue, including the community’s concerns about this particular development.”