Houston Mayor Halts Affordable Housing Deals

The mayor wants to examine the true benefits and impacts of a state law meant to boost affordable housing production that allows developers to exempt their projects from property taxes.

1 minute read

February 10, 2023, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Houston, Construction

Sandra Fernandez / Flickr

After residents in the upscale Tanglewood neighborhood of Houston resisted plans to build affordable housing there, Mayor Sylvester Turner has put a halt on similar affordable housing deals citywide “until he can examine them more closely,” writes R.A. Schuetz in the Houston Chronicle. 

The controversy centers around a 2015 state law regarding public facility corporations, “which allows local housing authorities to take properties off the tax roll if developers make some of the units affordable.” Critics say the law doesn’t clarify what “affordable” means or limit rents to a percentage of income. “[Mayor Turner] emphasized that his concern was whether developers were creating enough affordable units to warrant such a large tax break.” As Schuetz points out, “a 2020 study by the University of Texas School of Law found that, because of the law’s lack of clarity around the definition of affordability, the ‘affordable’ units it created were often market rate.” 

Meanwhile, some residents worry that removing tax revenue from new developments will harm local schools and infrastructure, even as developers “stretch the definition” of affordability and fail to benefit the lowest-income households. According to a Houston Chronicle investigation, some landlords don’t accept residents with housing vouchers. The mayor says the program will remain suspended “Until I can get a much better understanding of who’s getting what and for what.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 in Houston Chronicle

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Urban sidewalk shaded by large mature trees

Cool Walkability Planning

Shadeways (covered sidewalks) and pedways (enclosed, climate controlled walkways) can provide comfortable walkability in hot climates. The Cool Walkshed Index can help plan these facilities.

June 1, 2023 - Todd Litman

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Congestion Pricing Could Be Coming to L.A.

The infamously car-centric city is weighing a proposed congestion pricing pilot program to reduce traffic and encourage public transit use.

May 30, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Wildfire threatening hillside homes in Yucaipa, California

Home Insurers Are Fleeing California

Homeowners in the state are finding it increasingly difficult to secure insurance policies thanks to the growing risks of wildfire, drought, and other climate threats.

June 7 - Curbed

Aerial view of terminus of Los Angeles River and port infrastructure in Long Beach, California

Los Angeles County Initiates Effort to Advance Equity in Infrastructure

L.A. County Public Works has launched an initiative to center equity in all of its processes, programming, and services as it plans, designs, builds, and maintains modern infrastructure that uplifts all communities of the county.

June 7 - Los Angeles County Public Works

Aerial view of pickleball court with players illuminated for nighttime play

Addressing the Noise Impacts of Pickleball

Pickleball may be America's fastest growing sport, but it is not universally loved because of the noise it causes. Learn one expert's ideas for mitigating the noise impacts.

June 7 - The Hustle

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.