It is no secret that some areas of the city could use a facelift or don’t enjoy the same quality of life as others, and last week the city’s leader showed his intent to beautify sometimes-forgotten communities (including two local spots) within one of the nation’s largest cities.
Monday morning, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that two neighborhoods bordering our area of Houston (Acres Homes and Near Northside) will be among the first areas to receive help from a new initiative aimed at improving quality of life for residents living in neighborhoods not currently enjoying the same luxuries as others around the city, termed “Complete Communities.”
“This is going to be a signature program of my administration because it is so important to the families who live in these neighborhoods,” Turner said in a release. “We must not be a city of haves and have nots. Every Houstonian has a right to make the choice I have made and live in the neighborhood where he or she grew up.”
Officials’ next steps include at least four public meetings in each affected area in the coming months, after which implementation on any identified (and affirmed) community project will commence. Up to 60 percent of the city’s discretionary TIRZ affordable housing and federal housing funds and other uncommitted city resources will be used in a targeted way in the five pilot neighborhoods, which are in line to receive approximately $14 million in capital improvements over the next five years.
“We are going to do this while striving to preserve affordability for existing residents, and we will not leave until we know what we have done will have a high likelihood of success,” Turner said.
“The plans are important for identifying needed improvements; however, implementation of some improvements may occur simultaneously with the planning process as opportunities arise,” Press Secretary Darian Ward added.
With the focused approach involving the communities as well as partners in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, Turner believes the city can transform each of these neighborhoods upon completion of their projects. Officials will work with community advocates and partners across the city to create improved access to affordable homes, jobs, well-maintained parks and greenspace, improved streets and sidewalks, grocery stores and more beginning this coming June and wrapping up around the end of the year.
While Turner and his staff realize completion of Complete Communities does not mean every problem will vanish overnight, they believe it will usher in an era of neighborhoods that are sustainable with leadership in place that can continue forward movement to hopefully eradicate any obstacle in its way.
“We recognize this program will not repair every home, nor will it be a panacea for solving all the issues in these neighborhoods,” he said. “The problems have been decades in the making, and solving them will require a long-term focus and strong relationships with our partners.”