Galveston Housing Authority has submitted plans to build 50 public housing units in Texas City as part of a requirement to replace units destroyed during Hurricane Ike, a move one low-income housing advocate said violates agreements made soon after the storm.
Galveston still must build 287 units of public housing to meet a requirement to replace 569 units demolished after being flooded in the 2008 hurricane.
The Galveston Housing Authority in June submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build 50 of 287 units in Texas City, Executive Director Mona Purgason said. The Texas City authority has approached Galveston with the idea, she said.
The plan is an amendment to a proposal submitted to the federal department in May, which suggests 100 scattered site units north of Broadway, 100 units south of Broadway and another 87 units at yet-to-be determined locations, according to the Galveston Housing Authority’s draft submission.
“We have a shovel-ready project in Texas City,” Purgason said.
Some of the 569 units already have been replaced through development of mixed-income housing, and another 97 were planned as the first wave of units scattered throughout Galveston.
Of those units, construction has begun or been completed on 89, including 52 occupied units, said Deyna Sims, housing authority director of real estate and development, said.
Purgason was unsure what kind of housing the 50 units on the mainland would be and Texas City Housing Authority on Friday did not respond to requests for comment.
Where to rebuild public housing units has been a point of debate between nonprofit advocacy groups and the city of Galveston since a 2012 resolution that laid out a plan to replace the destroyed 569 units. Much of the opposition to public housing comes from residents who say scattered-site housing drags down property values and increases crime.
Replacing any of the public housing units destroyed by Ike was a polarizing issue on the island, with some Galveston residents seeking to have some or all of the units rebuilt on the mainland. But federal and state government officials intervened, threatening to take back hundreds of millions of dollars in post-storm recovery money from the city if it did not replace public housing.
“The documents the Galveston Housing Authority submitted to HUD, it’s not compliant,” said John Henneberger, co-director of Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. “It fails to meet the legal standards.”
Purgason disagreed, saying the plan meets criteria that the units be in an area that meets fair housing requirements, she said.
The proposed units would add public housing options in Galveston County, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.
The goal is to try to build quality housing back in the area, Yarbrough said. But there isn’t enough demand on the island for all the proposed public housing units, he said.
“We’ve been struggling to verify demand for another 300 units, 280 units, on the island,” Yarbrough said.
Purgason pointed out the housing authority’s proposal is still conceptual. The agency awaits approval from the federal government before moving forward with more concrete plans, she said.
The funding to repair public housing destroyed during Hurricane Ike from the federal government is set to expire at the end of 2019, Purgason said.