Fix Houston

How to Add More Affordable Housing

We all want a place to call home.

By Jeff Balke January 30, 2020 Published in the February 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

"Affordable housing is a crisis here," says Kyle Shelton, deputy director at the Kinder institute for Urban Research. According to Shelton, there are about 50,000 people being housed on 18,000 federal housing vouchers available through the Houston Housing Authority. But demand for subsidized housing is much larger than that. The Housing Authority has a waitlist of more than 100,000 households looking for support through either public housing or vouchers. That doesn’t account for those who don’t qualify but probably should, or undocumented immigrants. Add to that the fact that developers who might build inexpensive housing themselves are often hamstrung by city policies that, if reassessed, could go a long way toward creating more affordable housing opportunities. Take duplexes and quadplexes: “Multi-family units have to have a driveway wide enough for a full fire truck to pull in,” Shelton explains. “No one is building a quadplex if they have to devote a quarter of the property to a driveway.” As both the city’s population and property values increase, particularly in areas where there’s a lot of commerce, the problem will only get worse for all Houstonians. “Affordable housing applies to everyone. We all want affordable housing,” Shelton says. “What it means to each of us is very different.” 

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