Affordable Housing Project Proposed for Houston Heights

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A developer’s plan to build an affordable housing apartment complex in the Heights is being met with resistance from residents who think the project would be out of scale for the area, creating traffic and safety problems.

Chicago-based Brinshore Development is under contract to buy just over an acre at the northeast corner of Columbia and 4th streets to build the project, which would include 90 apartments for low-income residents and 30 market-rate units. The company is seeking federal tax credits of as much as $15 million over the course of 10 years to help fund the development.

The project is slated for a 46,200-square-foot site at 402 Columbia St., a block north of the Interstate 10 frontage road and several blocks east of Heights Boulevard. Brinshore filed paperwork last month with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs seeking $1.5 million in annual tax credits. The state allocates a limited number of federal tax credits each year.

Houston City Council is expected to pass a resolution Wednesday supporting 40 applications for tax credit projects proposed throughout the city, including the Brinshore project.

Called Hue, according to paperwork filed with the state, the Columbia Street development would be built on a site adjacent to both commercial development and high-end single-family homes.

Kevin Chenevert, president of the board of the Houston Heights Association, said residents understand that the property eventually will be redeveloped, but they were hoping for something that would have less of an impact on existing homeowners, perhaps an apartment complex half the size of the one Brinshore is proposing.

“I think it would be an easier pill to swallow,” he said.

Chenevert called the affordable aspect of the project a “nonissue.” He said the Heights area, which has hundreds of pricey apartments, could use more housing for working-class residents and retired people on fixed incomes.

“We have to be able to take care of them,” he said. “We have to look at affordable housing for the kids straight out of college working their first job, or for a divorced parent because their kids still go to school here.”

Brinshore is set to pay $3.6 million for the property, now owned by a family estate, according to a December purchase contract filed with the state agency. An official with the company was not available to comment Tuesday.

Federal tax credit programs such as the Competitive Housing Tax Credit Brinshore seeks for the Heights project are used as a tool to help finance the development of affordable housing for families that make under the area’s median household income.

If granted, Brinshore would be able to claim an annual tax credit equivalent to 70 percent of its project’s total “eligible costs.” A grant of $15 million would project a cost of $21.4 million for the Heights project.

The program awards points to projects to determine which ones receive tax credits. Developers can get points for going through a pre-application process and receiving letters of support, along with other items.

The tax credits are allocated among 13 distinct regions in the state. Last year, nine projects in Region Six, where the Heights project is located, received $13.6 million in tax credits, Kristina Tirloni, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, said. This year, the estimated amount allocated for the region is about $14.5 million, though that is subject to change, she said.

Before the affordable apartment complex was proposed, another developer wanted to build a hotel on the site. The neighbors had similar complaints then, said Chenevert, including increased traffic, safety, and concerns of how emergency vehicles would be able to access the neighborhood where the streets are relatively narrow.

Article Credit: Houston Chronicle