Barriers to housing accessibility and the need for fair housing does not solely burden property owners; it heavily affects renters too. The Fair Housing Act protects individuals renting, buying, and selling homes based on, race, sexuality, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disabilities, However, there are a multitude of factors and moving parts at all levels of government that impact access to housing. The Fair Housing Act aims to reduce discrimination. Yet, there is still a shortfall in protecting individuals from other hindrances to housing, such as socioeconomic factors, poverty, social class or status, and the lack of access to complete neighborhoods with quality schools and sustaining jobs. Shad Bogany, HAR Governmental Affairs and Advocacy’s Group co-chair, said, “I believe fair housing is under attack. I believe it is under attack based on income and what class you are in.”
The deficit of affordable housing available compared to the need is one contributor that consumers are facing. Consumers who have been approved for a housing voucher are often discriminated against when looking to rent or purchase homes. In October 2022, HAR’s Housing Symposium hosted Nest Quest. This non-profit cashes out housing vouchers to give families opportunities to live in complete communities where the vouchers would not have been accepted. The efforts to reduce these barriers are carried out through the Houston Housing Authority (HHA). HHA aims to advance affordable housing in Houston by assisting with voucher programs, public housing, mixed-income housing, and other resources to address housing for all in Houston. The HHA defines those needing affordable housing as individuals who spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
“I believe fair housing is under attack. I believe it is under attack based on income and what class you are in.” –Shad Bogany, HAR Governmental Affairs and Advocacy’s Group Co-chair
Zooming in on The City of Houston, there have been many strides to create affordable housing. Currently, affordable units in luxury apartments have been approved by the City of Houston. By establishing a percentage of affordable housing through the Public Facilities Corporations (PFC), they have been given tax credit breaks. The Governmental Affairs team has been monitoring the pushback from communities. Mayor Turner paused the development of these eight apartment complexes. Currently, Mayor Turner and the Houston Housing Authority have continued with one project, and the other seven are still in limbo. Through these City Council discussions and Housing and Development Committee meetings, it has been revealed these properties average a $1 million property tax loss to the city.
As a broker I see many examples where fair housing issues still arise on a regular basis. As realtors® we get to educate our owners and be sure to make them aware of fair housing rules and implications. Everyone deserves a quality home. —Bill Baldwin, Broker | Owner
Now, zooming out and looking at the 88th Texas Legislature, there are seventeen bills relating to Public Facility Corporations, mostly filed after this uprise in Houston’s wealthier communities and apartment complexes receiving affordable housing. These public facility corporation reform bills are filed, with claims that these tax breaks fall on property owners. Two sister bills, HB 2071 and SB 1278 have support from the Houston Region Business Coalition. These bills look to reform the requirements of how many units need to be affordable housing to receive the tax break. It was a shockwave when word spread about the City of Houston’s property tax loss due to the established PFCs. These bills will require transparency and accountability that these properties are filling the affordable units. Lastly, the reform looks less local control, which can prevent the exploited use of PFCs.
Does the problem lie with a burden on property taxes or higher-class individuals having lower-status individuals living in their community? Is this a threat to fair housing?