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Council approves $4million grants for affordable housing near MacGregor Park

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M.S. Stone appointed to Houston Public LIbrary Board July 23 2014
M.S. Stone appointed to Houston Public LIbrary Board July 23 2014
Marc Pembroke
Council Member Boykins explains his vote on item 11 on July 23 2014
photo by Marc Pembroke

On Wednesday July 23, Houston City Council's agenda was relatively light (21) items and apparently non-controversial. The Council deliberated for 7 minutes on 21 items, followed by 24 minutes of “pop-off” presentations, and a 7-minute press conference. Four members were absent (Bradford, Davis, Laster, and Martin). On a voice vote, the Council appointed Mr. M.S. Stone to the Board of Houston Public Library, and Mr. Kenneth Li to the Board of TIRZ 20. Two potentially complicated issues were pulled. Item 10 concerned plans to restore historic Freedmen s Town, and item 19 involved the award of a construction contract that one bidder alleged was improperly granted. Item 11 on the agenda was an ordnance “appropriating $500,000 out of TIRZ Affordable Housing Fund; approving and authorizing a Loan Agreement between the City of Houston and Volunteers of America National Services to provide the appropriated funds, and $3,500,000.00 of Federal “Home Funds” to assist with site acquisition and construction of a 112 unit affordable housing community for the elderly in the vicinity of 4320 Old Spanish Trail in Houston, Texas.” Including private funds, the project will cost $17 million. Under the proposal, VOA will partner with Kissito Riverside Center for Healthy Living. Kissito Healthcare, Inc. will control 15% of the project and provide and manage a health care facility on site.

District D represented by Dwight Boykins. The project has angered homeowners on MacGregor Boulevard near MacGregor Park, a neighborhood of large, stately single family homes developed primarily by black professionals. Several, including Ms. Tomaro Bell, spoke the previous day on the reason why the project is likely to bring down property values and the quality of life in a neighborhood that has been painstakingly developed for decades. Mr. Boykins had apparently made a commitment to concerned constituents to “tag” the item, which would delay it until next week, giving opponents time to develop additional presentations of their arguments, garner community support, and hopefully dissuade the Council from going forward. But Mr. Boykins failed to tag the item after tagging item 9 (an airport lease agreement). With item 10 pulled, a momentary distraction allowed the called item to pass without discussion. Mr. Boykins explained his error later in an effort to communicate with his constituents for the record.

A related matter was item 22, to set a hearing date for a public hearing to support a Resolution of No Objection for the 4% tax credit application of NNH At Reed, Ltd for the New Hope Housing located at 2620 Reed Road in District D. Mr. Boykins mentioned the support of State Representative Boris Miles and his intention to encourage the project. A motion was made to set the In an unusual move, Council Member Green cast a vote against scheduling the hearing. Mr. Boykins stated that he will work with the Housing Department to voice his concerns and those of his constituents.