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An unusually high amount of affordable rental houses in Lubbock are being proposed, and they’re needed

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Lubbock may have a shortage of affordable rental housing, especially for seniors.

A shortage, comparatively. In Lubbock, with a population of more than 250,000 people, there are 19 affordable rental housing facilities. In Amarillo there are 34 in that city of about 200,000. In the smaller city of Abilene, there are 15. In Midland and Odessa there’s 22. In Dallas there are 138.

Of those 19 facilities in Lubbock associated with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Housing Tax Credit Program, only four are specifically for seniors.

Karen Murfee, the city of Lubbock’s director of community development, said affordable rental housing is needed for seniors.

“Because of our population, understand that there’s more elderly. They’re Baby Boomers,” said Murfee. “We all hear this now — that’s the biggest generation and they’re now aging. And if you’ve lived in a neighborhood your whole life and you raised your kids there, you don’t want to move far.”

The Tax Credit Program, according to its website, is one of the primary means of providing affordable rental housing for low-income households through private capital. Tax credits are awarded to eligible participants to offset a portion of their federal tax liability in exchange for the production or preservation of affordable rental housing.

Lubbock’s low numbers are not to say investors and developers aren’t interested in constructing them, both because the demand as well as the 9 percent federal tax credit awarded to the participants. This year in particular there’s a large number of investors applying for these tax credits for building affordable rental housing. There are five projects being proposed for Lubbock in 2018, as opposed to three last year.

Still, only one in the region is likely to be accepted by the TDHCA Housing Tax Credit Program.

Applicants are scored and ranked by the TDHCA by what’s called a Regional Allocation Formula. Tax credits are then divided between the state’s regions, between either rural or urban. Lubbock is in Region 1 which makes up all of the Panhandle and South Plains, and is the only urban area besides Amarillo. Last year, a project in Amarillo was the only one awarded in the region. Applicants right now are in the pre-application period, and there were originally seven applicants requesting $8.3 million in total credits.

According to the TDHCA’s website, there’s only $1.19 million available to 2018 projects in a Region 1 urban area. Murfee estimates that’ll only cover one project. There are no applicants currently from Amarillo.

The Lubbock City Council has some say in this, and opted to stay neutral. On Thursday, the council approved resolutions with the same language for each of the five projects, saying they’re in support of all these projects. One of the projects is the proposal to build a community living center for seniors in Lubbock’s Guadalupe Neighborhood, which was the focus of council meetings earlier this year when its developers successfully received a zoning change request despite complaints from some in the neighborhood. This was the only resolution Thursday to receive votes against it from the council, with council members Juan Chadis and Shelia Patterson Harris opposed.

The income requirements to live in these affordable housing units depends on many factors — median income of the neighborhood, family size and unit size. For a single person, it’s available to people earning 60 percent or less of the area’s median income.

“What TDHCA is saying, is affordable housing needs to be enhancing the neighborhood and be a part of that neighborhood,” said Murfee. “It’s having sustainable, affordable housing for whatever low-income or elderly need it. For the elderly, they should be all over the city, because that might be where their kids are living, or that’s where their doctor’s office is.

Other action

The Lubbock City Council discussed animal services during an afternoon work session, and at its regularly scheduled evening meeting heard remarks from citizens criticizing city practices regarding animal services. The Lubbock Animal Services Department comes under fire frequently for not being a no-kill shelter.

In early 2017 a petition received around 1,500 signatures calling for a change at Lubbock Animal Shelters when it was reported the shelter has a euthanasia rate of about 70 percent of all animals it takes in.

Nothing was decided or voted on Thursday, but all members of the city council during their work session expressed the want to better city practices. It was said a more in-depth workshop should be scheduled at a later date.

The city council approved amending the five-year-old downtown public improvements design standards that, according to the city, were hindering downtown redevelopment do to the triggers on any project requiring a building permit.

Council approved at agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to close Loop 289 during the Mayor’s Marathon scheduled for 8-11 a.m. on Sunday, April 22.

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