[Hpn] Study finds few apartments the poor can afford

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Thu, 30 Mar 2006 03:10:43 -0500


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http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/3758134.html





March 29, 2006


Housing shortage could leave evacuees homeless


Study finds few apartments the poor can afford


By MIKE SNYDER
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle=20

Thousands of Houston hurricane evacuees will be unable to find =
apartments they can afford as their city vouchers expire in coming =
months, raising concerns that a number could end up homeless.

A new study of the Houston area's rental housing market, commissioned by =
the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, found a shortage =
of almost 14,000 apartments affordable to families of five earning up to =
$26,360 a year - the income category thought to apply to most Hurricane =
Katrina and Rita evacuees living in Houston.

It found a surplus of 2,685 apartments affordable to families earning =
from about $27,000 to about $40,000 annually. This is the income range =
primarily served by the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.
States award tax credits to low-income housing developers, who sell them =
to investors to help pay for their developments. They are the nation's =
largest financing source for low-cost housing.

The Treasury Department recently authorized an additional $3.5 million =
in tax credits to help Texas hurricane evacuees, and the state has asked =
for an additional $45 million in credits. But the new study shows that =
reliance on this program to house evacuees is not likely to be =
effective.

The study "demonstrates conclusively that additional low-income housing =
tax credit apartments will not serve to house the overwhelming numbers =
of lower-income families who are in need of housing in the wake of the =
hurricanes," said John Henneberger, co-director of the Austin-based =
Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service.

The city vouchers generally will expire in September or October. But =
about 6,700 of the almost 35,000 tenants using vouchers signed six-month =
leases that are starting to expire now, and landlords are not obliged to =
extend the leases.

An unspecified number of evacuees will qualify for the Federal Emergency =
Management Agency's individual assistance program, which will provide =
cash payments that the tenants can use to pay their rent. That =
assistance will end about a year from now.

Other options are scarce. More than 16,000 people are on a waiting list =
for public housing in Houston, and the list for federal Section 8 =
subsidized housing vouchers has been closed since 2001.

Evacuees in Houston are worried about what they will do when their =
vouchers and other assistance end, said Dorothy Stukes, the president of =
the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association.

Stukes said she and her son-in-law hope to buy property to build a house =
in the Houston area, but she has been unable to find a job that would =
make this possible.

Evacuee Kemberly Samuels, 52, said she has reviewed apartment listings =
in the newspaper but can't see how she could pay for housing on her own.

"I have no idea what I'm going to do," said Samuels, who worked in the =
New Orleans public school system for many years but hasn't found a job =
in Houston. "A lot of people are saying that they're just going to be =
homeless."

While it's likely that some evacuees will become homeless, predicting =
the number is difficult, said Anthony Love, the chief executive officer =
of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston-Harris County.

"The worst-case scenario would be a deluge of individuals heading toward =
services or headed for the streets," Love said. Agency leaders have been =
discussing ways to increase their capacity to meet the additional =
demand, he said.

Advocates for affordable housing have long known that the supply of =
housing available to very poor families is insufficient in Houston and =
nationally. The state study provides a more precise measure of the =
shortage in the Houston area.

The study by Vogt Williams & Bowen projects the shortage in Houston will =
grow to almost 24,000 apartments by 2009.

The state housing agency ordered the study after some members of its =
board questioned the accuracy of market studies submitted by developers =
to support their tax credit applications, agency spokesman Michael =
Lyttle said.

The Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service, which features an =
article on the state study in its latest newsletter, is lobbying members =
of Congress to change the tax credit formula in a way that would expand =
the use of the program to build apartments for the very poor.

While this would result in fewer tax-credit apartments being built =
because they would require higher subsidies, it would create units that =
"would actually be affordable to very low-income evacuees," the =
newsletter says.

Information about evacuees' income levels is limited, but the available =
evidence suggests most are in the "very poor" category. A survey by the =
Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation and the Harvard School =
of Public Health showed that among Katrina evacuees who fled to Houston =
shelters, seven in 10 did not have a checking or savings account.

mike.snyder@chron.com



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<P minmax_bound=3D"true"><SPAN class=3Dtimestamp =
minmax_bound=3D"true"><FONT=20
color=3D#ef4d15><B minmax_bound=3D"true">March 29, =
2006</B></FONT></SPAN></P><SPAN=20
class=3Dtimestamp minmax_bound=3D"true"><FONT color=3D#ef4d15>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true"><BR minmax_bound=3D"true"></FONT></SPAN><SPAN=20
class=3Dstoryheading3 minmax_bound=3D"true"><STRONG><FONT =
size=3D5>Housing shortage=20
could leave evacuees homeless</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true"><SPAN class=3Dstoryheading3=20
minmax_bound=3D"true"><STRONG><FONT size=3D5><BR=20
minmax_bound=3D"true"></FONT></STRONG></SPAN><SPAN class=3Dstorydeck3=20
minmax_bound=3D"true">Study finds few apartments the poor can =
afford</SPAN><BR=20
minmax_bound=3D"true"></P>
<P class=3Dcopyright minmax_bound=3D"true"><SPAN class=3Dauthor=20
minmax_bound=3D"true"><STRONG><FONT size=3D1>By MIKE SNYDER<BR=20
minmax_bound=3D"true"></FONT></STRONG></SPAN>Copyright 2006 Houston =
Chronicle </P><!-- commented out ad
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frameborder=3D0 scrolling=3Dno></iframe>
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<DIV class=3Dbodycopy minmax_bound=3D"true">
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">Thousands of Houston hurricane evacuees will be =
unable to=20
find apartments they can afford as their city vouchers expire in coming =
months,=20
raising concerns that a number could end up homeless.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">A new study of the Houston area's rental =
housing market,=20
commissioned by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, =
found a=20
shortage of almost 14,000 apartments affordable to families of five =
earning up=20
to $26,360 a year =97 the income category thought to apply to most =
Hurricane=20
Katrina and Rita evacuees living in Houston.</P>
<DIV class=3Dinlinead style=3D"MARGIN-TOP: 5px" minmax_bound=3D"true">It =
found a=20
surplus of 2,685 apartments affordable to families earning from about =
$27,000 to=20
about $40,000 annually. This is the income range primarily served by the =
federal=20
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.</DIV>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">States award tax credits to low-income housing=20
developers, who sell them to investors to help pay for their =
developments. They=20
are the nation's largest financing source for low-cost housing.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">The Treasury Department recently authorized an =
additional=20
$3.5 million in tax credits to help Texas hurricane evacuees, and the =
state has=20
asked for an additional $45 million in credits. But the new study shows =
that=20
reliance on this program to house evacuees is not likely to be =
effective.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">The study "demonstrates conclusively that =
additional=20
low-income housing tax credit apartments will not serve to house the=20
overwhelming numbers of lower-income families who are in need of housing =
in the=20
wake of the hurricanes," said John Henneberger, co-director of the =
Austin-based=20
Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">The city vouchers generally will expire in =
September or=20
October. But about 6,700 of the almost 35,000 tenants using vouchers =
signed=20
six-month leases that are starting to expire now, and landlords are not =
obliged=20
to extend the leases.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">An unspecified number of evacuees will qualify =
for the=20
Federal Emergency Management Agency's individual assistance program, =
which will=20
provide cash payments that the tenants can use to pay their rent. That=20
assistance will end about a year from now.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">Other options are scarce. More than 16,000 =
people are on=20
a waiting list for public housing in Houston, and the list for federal =
Section 8=20
subsidized housing vouchers has been closed since 2001.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">Evacuees in Houston are worried about what they =
will do=20
when their vouchers and other assistance end, said Dorothy Stukes, the =
president=20
of the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">Stukes said she and her son-in-law hope to buy =
property=20
to build a house in the Houston area, but she has been unable to find a =
job that=20
would make this possible.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">Evacuee Kemberly Samuels, 52, said she has =
reviewed=20
apartment listings in the newspaper but can't see how she could pay for =
housing=20
on her own.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">"I have no idea what I'm going to do," said =
Samuels, who=20
worked in the New Orleans public school system for many years but hasn't =
found a=20
job in Houston. "A lot of people are saying that they're just going to =
be=20
homeless."</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">While it's likely that some evacuees will =
become=20
homeless, predicting the number is difficult, said Anthony Love, the =
chief=20
executive officer of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston-Harris=20
County.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">"The worst-case scenario would be a deluge of =
individuals=20
heading toward services or headed for the streets," Love said. Agency =
leaders=20
have been discussing ways to increase their capacity to meet the =
additional=20
demand, he said.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">Advocates for affordable housing have long =
known that the=20
supply of housing available to very poor families is insufficient in =
Houston and=20
nationally. The state study provides a more precise measure of the =
shortage in=20
the Houston area.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">The study by Vogt Williams &amp; Bowen projects =
the=20
shortage in Houston will grow to almost 24,000 apartments by 2009.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">The state housing agency ordered the study =
after some=20
members of its board questioned the accuracy of market studies submitted =
by=20
developers to support their tax credit applications, agency spokesman =
Michael=20
Lyttle said.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">The Texas Low-Income Housing Information =
Service, which=20
features an article on the state study in its latest newsletter, is =
lobbying=20
members of Congress to change the tax credit formula in a way that would =
expand=20
the use of the program to build apartments for the very poor.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">While this would result in fewer tax-credit =
apartments=20
being built because they would require higher subsidies, it would create =
units=20
that "would actually be affordable to very low-income evacuees," the =
newsletter=20
says.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true">Information about evacuees' income levels is =
limited, but=20
the available evidence suggests most are in the "very poor" category. A =
survey=20
by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation and the Harvard =
School of=20
Public Health showed that among Katrina evacuees who fled to Houston =
shelters,=20
seven in 10 did not have a checking or savings account.</P>
<P minmax_bound=3D"true"><EM minmax_bound=3D"true"><A=20
href=3D"mailto:mike.snyder@chron.com" minmax_bound=3D"true" =
s_oc=3D"null"><FONT=20
color=3D#005fa4>mike.snyd</FONT></EM><EM minmax_bound=3D"true"><FONT=20
color=3D#005fa4>er@chron.com</FONT></A></EM></P></DIV></DIV>

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