TxLIHIS Files Comments on Sunset Staff Report on TSAHC

We recently submitted comments regarding the Sunset Staff report regarding the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.  TSAHC underwent sunset review in during the 2009 legislative session, but the TSAHC sunset bill failed to pass during the regular session, and the Corporation is up for a limited re-review.

Our comments:


 

Dear Mr. Levine,

The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (TxLIHIS)[1] appreciates the work of Sunset staff represented by the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC) Sunset report, and supports many of the recommendations within.

We respectfully submit the following comments for consideration by the Commission.

New Issue #1: Align statutory purpose with operating mission by incorporating reference to “underserved populations”

TSAHC’s website currently states “Our Mission – The Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation serves the housing needs of low, very low and extremely low-income Texans and other underserved populations who do not have comparable housing options through conventional financial channels.”

This operating mission is slightly different than the statutory purpose of TSAHC[2] : “The public purpose of the corporation is to perform activities and services that the corporation’s board of directors determines will promote the public health, safety, and welfare through the provision of adequate, safe, and sanitary housing primarily for individuals and families of low, very low, and extremely low income and for persons who are eligible for loans under the home loan programs provided by Sections 2306.562 and 2306.5621.”

We believe that the focus the operating mission places on “underserved populations” is important to ensure that the work of TSHAC is not duplicative of the efforts of TDHCA.  The legislature should align the statutory mission of TSHAC with the operating mission by referencing underserved populations in the statutory purpose of the corporation.

We suggest changing 10.G. 2306.553 Texas Government Code to read: “The public purpose of the corporation is to perform activities and services that the corporation’s board of directors determines will promote the public health, safety, and welfare through the provision of adequate, safe, and sanitary housing primarily for the underserved population of individuals and families of low, very low, and extremely low income who do not have comparable housing options through conventional financial channels, and for persons who are eligible for loans under the home loan programs provided by Sections 2306.562 and 2306.5621.”

New Issue #2: Direct TSAHC to develop innovative strategies to address the housing needs of underserved populations

TSAHC is the perfect vehicle to develop new programs at low risk to the state.  TSAHC could meet its mission to serve underserved populations by testing small-scale innovative programs to serve these populations; successful programs could be moved back into TDHCA and ramped up to a larger scale with state resources.  Unsuccessful programs can be documented and used as learning opportunities for further program development.

We recommend that the legislature, each biennium, charge TSAHC with developing programs for a specific underserved market.  Rural populations, farm workers, SSI recipients, homeless populations are all underserved markets that could benefit from such program innovation.

Placing TSAHC in a program-development role would further differentiate the work of TSHAC from that of TDHCA and private-sector non-profits.

New Issue #3: Direct TSAHC to collect and publish data on the population it serves.

TDHCA compiles Housing Sponsor Reports, profiles of the occupants of properties receiving assistance through the Department. These reports includes the contact information for each property, the total number of units, the number of accessible units, the rents for units by type, the racial composition information for the property, the number of units occupied by individuals receiving supported housing assistance, the number of units occupied delineated by income group and a statement as to whether there have been fair housing violations at the property.[3] We urge TSAHC to require the properties it supports to report the same data in a comparable format.  The Housing Sponsor Reports provide an important insight into the housing activities supported directly or indirectly by the state.

Staff recommendation 1.2: Increase the size of the Corporation’s Board by adding one member to represent the interests of families served by the Corporation’s single family programs and one member to represent nonprofit housing organizations.

We support this recommendation and believe it would be beneficial for nonprofit corporations that do not do business (or otherwise have a conflict on interest) with TSAHC to serve on its board.  We also believe that a consumer of the Corporation’s services, i.e. a lower-income person, should be included on the board to provide their important perspective.

Staff recommendation 1.3: Require the Corporation to include a range of enforcement options in its multifamily contracts to ensure developers provide safe and decent housing.

We agree with this recommendation, and recommend that the Corporation also require the regular use of statistically valid resident satisfaction surveys as a provision of its multifamily contracts.  Owners and property developers associated with multifamily projects which fail to achieve a reasonable standard of satisfaction through these surveys should be barred from further participation in financing programs through either TSAHC or TDHCA.

Staff recommendation 1.4: Update standard Sunset across-the-board requirements for the Corporation.

We agree with this recommendation, with particular emphasis on the updating of the conflict of interest requirements for the TSAHC board.   As a state-affiliated non-profit, TSAHC should be held to the highest standards to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

John Henneberger, co-director


[1] The mission of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (TxLIHIS) is to support low-income Texans’ efforts to achieve the American dream of a decent, affordable home in a quality neighborhood.

[2] Texas Government Code 10.G.2306.553

[3] see 2010 State of Texas Low Income Housing Plan, page 125.