Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation left twisting in the wind

The Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC) was the least noticed among for state agencies left in limbo by the Texas Legislature’s adjournment yesterday evening. TSAHC had undergone a scheduled review by the state’s Sunset Advisory Commission a little over a year ago. Because of opposition of some members of the Legislature to continuing the agency, legislation authorizing the continuance of TSAHC did not pass.

(I’ll blog in greater detail about these issues in coming weeks).

Normally the legislature enacts an end of session bill that provides for the structured wind down of agencies whose Sunset legislation does not pass. But this traditional “cleanup” bill failed at the last minute to pass the House of Representatives Saturday night. An unusual and controversial maneuver on the part of the House leadership to enact the provisions of the bill through a resolution on the final day of the session encountered the wrath of state senators who refused to go along.

The end result is that the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation is left twisting in the wind.

Also caught up in this end of session Sunset mess are two more high-profile agencies: the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas (the state racing commission is a fourth agency). There’s been much speculation that the governor will call a special session of the Legislature to re-authorize the continued existence of the state Department of Transportation and the state Department of Insurance. But today Gov. Perry indicated he would call no special session this summer and would wait and see what he would do. [Watch the Governor’s strange press conference on the issue here.]

In the meantime, it seems as if TSAHC will continue to operate over the next several months with the idea that it will put its affairs in order so that it can go out of business.

In my opinion, all of this could have been avoided had the legislature and/or TSAHC itself defined an appropriate and useful role for the corporation. Unfortunately, the rationale for TSAHC’s continued existence articulated by the corporation was centered upon its role as a nonprofit corporation that can apply for foundation grants for housing. As I argued over a year ago in testimony presented to the Sunset Advisory Commission this is not sufficient justification for the corporation’s continued existence. Private nonprofit housing corporations are perfectly capable of seeking out and applying for foundation funding and there is no need for a state agency to play this role.

While I scrupulously avoided taking a side in the debate this session over legislation to continue TSAHC I certainly hope the corporation’s staff and legislators devote some serious thought to a useful role for the corporation in the provision of affordable housing in Texas in case there is an opportunity to undo the abolition of the agency.