Dec 16, 2022 - News

Houston funds more affordable housing amid shortage

Rendering of the side of a three-story apartment building, called the OST Lofts

OST Lofts could be completed as soon as 2024. Rendering courtesy of Houston Housing and Community Development Department

A new $43 million affordable housing project will soon be underway in southeast Houston as the city grapples with a shortage.

Driving the news: City Council this week approved a $19.3 million loan to the Tejano Center for Community Concerns to purchase land in southeast Houston for a 130-unit affordable housing project.

Why it matters: Nearly 500,000 Harris County residents are living in housing they can't afford, according to a Kinder Institute for Urban Research study reported by the Houston Business Journal.

  • To meet the demand, the county would need 20,000 new affordable housing units each year, the study indicated.

The big picture: Nearly 25% of Houston's affordable housing units were lost or damaged during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a blow to a city with an already depleted stock of affordable units.

  • Plus: If the Texas Department of Transportation moves forward with the North Houston Highway Improvement Plan, another two affordable apartment complexes northeast of downtown would be demolished.
  • TxDOT has pledged to pay for moving costs and replace the lost units, but that process has yet to be ironed out.

By the numbers: Mayor Sylvester Turner has set a self-imposed goal of 7,000 new affordable housing units in Houston by the end of his tenure in 2023.

  • Nearly 2,500 units are under construction, and another 600 are expected to start construction in the coming months, according to Ryan Bibbs, division manager over multifamily development with the Housing and Community Development Department.
  • "Let's face it, prices are going up every day on land and rent," Bibbs said. "It's great to be able to try to put affordable housing in place before prices become unaffordable for folks who want to have a great, clean place to live."

Details: The complex — called the OST Lofts — will be in the 5500 block of Old Spanish Trail, just east of Produce Row near the University of Houston, MacGregor Park and Brays Bayou.

  • The proposal calls for 74 one-bedroom, 44 two-bedroom, and 12 three-bedroom rental units. Once complete, 80% of the units will be held for those who make less than 60% of Houston's median household income.
  • The Tejano Center will operate a pre-kindergarten school on the premises, which will primarily serve apartment residents.
  • The $19.3 million loaned from the city of Houston comes from Community Development Block Grants approved after Hurricane Harvey.
  • Amegy Bank, National Equity Fund and the DWR Development Group are funding the rest of the $43 million for construction.

What they're saying: District I Council Member Robert Gallegos has long pushed for the project to come to fruition, which was nearly three years in the making.

  • "District I is ending [the year] on a good note," Gallegos said. "This is one of those rare opportunities where development will combine affordable housing with early childhood education. We very much need and support these types of planned communities in District I."

What's next: Construction on OST Lofts will start soon and could last about 18 months.


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