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Houston must return $45M in unused affordable housing funds

According to local reporting, the city must return the funds to the state of Texas, which will in turn give them back to the federal government

Despite recent data indicating a poor affordable housing situation in Texas, the city of Houston must return $45 million in unused affordable housing funds to the state after failing to use them for construction of new homes. This is according to local reporting by a Houston ABC News affiliate.

Primarily allocated to the city following Hurricane Harvey in 2017 through a recovery program administered by the state via federal funds, the city aimed to use the money to purchase three lots on which to construct affordable housing. Officials in the administration of Mayor Sylvester Turner — who served in the office from 2016 until January 2024 — “promised to build hundreds of homes on them,” according to the local reporting.

Instead, the city failed to begin construction on the homes in a timely manner. In September 2023, city officials informed the state they would not be able to meet a deadline to begin construction, triggering the obligation to reimburse the state. The state will then send the money back to the federal government.

According to a December 2023 report from the Houston Chronicle, the Turner administration managed to complete 916 affordable housing units with an additional 426 units still in construction as of early November. That left 2,021 units of the 3,000 units pledged still awaiting construction as the mayor’s term was coming to an end the following month.

”We should be talking about why [we didn’t] build the houses when we were on schedule to do so,” incumbent Mayor John Whitmire told ABC 13 in Houston.

A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) showed that Texas is tied for the third-worst level for the number of affordable and available rental homes per extremely low-income renter households in the nation. Texas has only 25 such homes per 100 households in need. It trails only Nevada, California and Arizona for lack of supply.

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