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Texas State Legislators Aim to Reduce Their Own Housing Sway

Current Texas law grants state representatives significant power over whether affordable developments receive federal tax credits. Controversially, several representatives have proposed the reduction of their own authority in that regard.
April 18, 2019, 12pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Texas State Capitol building

Texas has long been a key stage for debates over fair housing, as in the controversy over "disparate impact" that led to a landmark Supreme Court affirmation of civil rights law in 2015 (and subsequent doubts over the future of Obama-era reforms). This year, Jared Brey writes, housing groups and a number of state representatives want to rework the state assessment process for federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) applications.

"Currently, state representatives have a lot of sway over proposed development via letters submitted during the assessment process," Brey writes. He goes on, "That power has been used to reinforce patterns of residential segregation in Texas that have been the subject of legal battles for years. [...] Even in the most innocent scenarios, state representatives' support has a very loose connection to the merits of a project, housing advocates say." Less innocent allegations include the political entrenchment of racist attitudes and outright bribery.

Several state reps are currently trying to remove the letters from LIHTC scoring criteria, Brey says. "Proponents of the new bills hope that the recent high-profile examples of state representatives blatantly misusing their influence over low-income housing projects will give the legislation a better chance of passing this year."

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Published on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 in Next City
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