A news analysis of Texas’ allocation of federal housing funds shows the process fosters continued segregation. Although the HUD programs are intended to break up concentrations of poverty households, placement of tax-incentive projects and other low-income housing in more affluent neighborhoods is usually blocked by protesting residents.
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Low-Income Housing Effort Compels Building in Poor Areas
By Karisa King and Ryan Murphy San Antonio Express-News April 22, 2012
Plans to build a low-income apartment complex for seniors in one of San Antonio’s most fashionable neighborhoods had been posted for barely a week in January when the fury began.
Residents feared that the 68 rental apartments, which were competing for federal tax credit subsidies, would spoil the affluent Stone Oak neighborhood. In a storm of emails, calls and letters to local and state officials, they predicted unpleasant results: lower property values, more traffic and an increase in crime.
“It just didn’t fit with us,” said Francisco Martinez, president of the Mount Arrowhead Homeowners Association, one of about a dozen groups that opposed the apartments. “These are single-family homes. Anything that takes away from that takes away from why we bought into it.”
By March, the neighbors had prevailed. The project and any chance of public subsidies this year were dead.
Federal housing programs are designed to break up concentrations of poverty and discourage segregation. To lift low-income residents out of poverty, policy makers increasingly focus on the links between neighborhoods and access to jobs, good schools, transportation and safe streets.
But in Texas — which gives neighbors a significant say in where subsidized housing can be built — those policy objectives are largely being foiled, as the dynamics in Stone Oak illustrate. Subsidized apartments are being built disproportionately in impoverished neighborhoods with high concentrations of minority residents, according to an analysis by The San Antonio Express-News and The Texas Tribune.
Interactive: Low-Income Tax Credit Housing Map
In Texas, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program disproportionately builds apartments in impoverished neighborhoods with high concentrations of minorities while placing few units in areas that are predominantly white. More than other states, Texas gives neighborhood groups the power to block housing funded by the program, and the results have been stark.
The map below shows the locations — marked with red dots — of housing projects that received low-income tax credits. Click on a dot to see the name of the complex, its address, the total number of units and how much money the complex received. The map is also broken up into census tracts, with different shades of blue representing the percentage of that tract’s non-white population, according to the 2010 census.
Use the drop-down above the map to the right to zoom to a particular city, or use the text box to zoom to an address of your choosing. Use the drop-down in the legend to view census tracts by 2010 median income.
See the graphic at: http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/tax-credit-housing-locations/
Bad Zoning Can Ruin Your Kid’s Life
By Nate Berg The Atlantic Cities April 21, 2012
Add to the list of boogeymen and monsters under the bed another terrifying villain with which to spook your children: restrictive zoning regulations. Scared already, aren’t they?
According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, being raised in an area with overly restrictive zoning controls can doom children to getting stuck in bad schools, which in turn can greatly limit their lifetime educational attainment and economic success. Of course, it’s all much more complicated than that, but the report, by Jonathan Rothwell, shows how restrictive zoning can be a major factor in determining the success of students.
Rothwell analyzed the 2010 and 2011 standardized test results of more than 84,000 public schools in the largest 100 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and found that lower-income students tended to attend schools with lower test scores, while middle- and higher-income students attend schools with higher test scores. Numerous studies have found these same results: poor kids tend to go to schools that have a lot of other poor kids, and those schools have lower standardized test scores.
Wal-Mart set to deal with area neighbors
Councilwoman Chan to announce compromise.
By Josh Baugh San Antonio Express-News April 24, 2012
Councilwoman Elisa Chan plans to announce details at a town hall meeting today about her negotiations with Wal-Mart to develop the southwest corner of Wurzbach Parkway and Blanco Road — next to the city’s Phil Hardberger Park.
Chan declined to discuss specifics because she wants to tell her constituents directly what she’s negotiated. But she offered some information about what should be expected.
In February, residents and park supporters won a battle in their attempt to block a big-box development from being built on the site. The City Council approved moving forward with a rezoning of the property to a more restrictive category that would block the construction of a retail space the size of a Wal-Mart.
But Chan used the threat of “down-zoning” to bring Wal-Mart officials back to the negotiating table, which she says they left too early.
“I think I made it very clear in many interviews that I wanted to bring people back to the table to talk about it, to work out a plan,” she said. “I believe Wal-Mart walked away too soon.”
And now it appears that she’s struck a tentative deal.
Urban planning experts say using citizens to guide the process is healthy
By Garth Stapley McClatchy Newspapers April 23, 2012
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Cities are people. Why not use people to improve cities?
Regular folks, not planners or politicians, can be a key to solving problems of urban areas in times of crisis, several experts told a national gathering of land-use journalists at Harvard University on Friday and Saturday.
“You have to feel the city,” said Richard M. Daley, former mayor of Chicago. His favorite day of the week during his 22-year tenure was Saturday, he said, because he could circulate and “I knew that was a time people felt more connected to me.”
After several years of bruising recession, unemployment and foreclosures, maybe it’s not surprising when the disenchanted occupy public parks for weeks on end or wear tri-cornered hats to protest taxes, presenters said.
Others look for creative solutions. Given a chance, their ideas can make cities more vibrant and dynamic.