New strategies to keep housing affordable in Houston’s Third Ward

What’s next for the affordable housing effort in Houston’s Third Ward? That’s a question discussed a lot at the Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) and the Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI).

With 456 rental units and 146 single-family homes already built and more homes and apartments in the works, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two agencies declared the program a success and moved on to something else. Instead, they are looking at ways to improve the program and keep costs from escalating.

One idea already being implemented is the adjacency project under which MRA will reserve lots it owns for builders and nonprofits with site control or ownership of land immediately adjacent to or close to the MRA lots. The goal is to facilitate economies of scale that are harder to accomplish on a lot-by-lot basis.

The program is open to community development corporations, nonprofit affordable housing developers, and for-profit affordable housing developers. Eligible projects include multi-family rental developments, Single Room Occupancy Units, single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, and more.

MRA is also exploring ways to help offset the costs of infrastructure improvements necessary when building in an older neighborhood like the Third Ward. Replacing old and crumbling sidewalks, water pipes, and sewer lines cost much more than it did when the program began. So do construction materials. Every cost increase gets passed on to the buyer, pushing home prices close to or beyond the affordability threshold.

MRA Director of Real Estate Todd Edwards has for years been sounding the alarm about the dichotomy between maintaining affordability in the face of the rapidly changing construction market. He is optimistic there will be agreement on some new strategies to supplement the land subsidies MRA provides, possibly as early as 2023.

Currently, four builders participate in the MRA/CCPPI affordable housing program. MRA provides lots to these builders for free or at a nominal fee. The homes built on those lots are made available to buyers who meet income eligibility requirements and complete a homebuying education class offered by the Houston Urban League.

The program’s goal is to build workforce housing to help long-time Third Ward residents stay and build generational wealth in the neighborhood where they grew up. Read more and find out if you qualify here.