The hundreds of local residents who have voiced opposition to a proposed affordable housing complex in the Shady Acres area scored a victory Tuesday, when the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) terminated the developer’s application for a federal housing tax credit that would have helped fund the Dian Street Villas project at 1433 Dian St.
According to a letter sent from the TDHCA to Houston-based nonprofit Texas Inter-Faith Housing, which was obtained by The Leader through an open records request, the application was pulled because the developer failed to communicate its plan to a qualifying neighborhood organization within the boundaries of the project site. The TDHCA said Texas Inter-Faith Housing previously told the state agency that it did not notify any neighborhood organizations about the project, because the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council was not on record with Harris County or the Secretary of State’s Office. But a TDHCA review determined that the Shady Acres Civic Club is within the boundaries of the proposed site and is on record with the Secretary of State, so it should have been notified as part of the developer’s application submitted earlier this year.
“Because the statutory notification requirement was not met, the application is terminated, pending your ability to appeal,” the letter states.
Russ Michaels, executive director for Texas Inter-Faith Housing, confirmed Wednesday that the developer received the termination letter. He did not indicate whether the developer plans to appeal within the seven-day window specified by the TDHCA.
Michaels said in April that the project likely would not move forward without being awarded the 9 percent federal housing tax credit, which is worth millions of dollars over a 10-year period.
“We’re looking at (the termination letter) and just have to evaluate it,” Michaels said.
Barring a successful appeal, the TDHCA’s decision represents a win for residents opposed to the project, which called for a 108-unit, three-story apartment complex with 96 of those units designated for low-income renters. Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council president Mark Williamson said the council, at the request of the Shady Acres Civic Club and Clark Pines Civic Association, submitted a letter of opposition to the TDHCA last week, citing concerns about the project’s potential impact on traffic in the area.
Another group of nearby area residents created a website called stopdianstreetvillas.com and has secured more than 700 signatures as part of an online petition opposing the development.
“We had 80 percent of those involved very against the project to start with,” said David Charvoz, president of the Clark Pines Civic Association. “This will make everyone very happy and make them feel like they’ve done their job (in terms of) what they were trying to do.”
Charvoz said he did not personally oppose the project, based on his communications with the developer, but he and others in the neighborhood took issue with the engagement process as it pertained to the competition for the housing tax credits. The tax credits are awarded annually by the TDHCA based on a competitive system in which developers earn points for several aspects of their plan, including obtaining the support of local elected officials and nearby neighborhood groups.
The Dian Street Villas already had received letters of support from the Houston City Council and State Rep. Anna Eastman. Some of the project’s opponents previously said their opinions and input should have first been solicited by Eastman and the city council members who voted to support the project as well as others in Houston.
“It was unclear who it was (the developer) was supposed to be notifying,” Williamson said. “I think that’s one of the process errors we need to face.”
Eastman said she is “disappointed that step was left out,” saying she had been reassured by the developer and the city that they had gone through the proper notification channels.
The Heights resident, who represents District 148 in the Texas House of Representatives, also said there remains a need for more affordable housing options in the area.
“We are taking the appropriate steps to provide more affordable options throughout HD 148 and for Texans throughout the state,” Eastman said.