Renters also deserve affordable housing options
Not everyone yearns to be a homeowner. For many, especially seniors on fixed incomes and those with disabilities, renting is often the preferred and necessary housing choice. The Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) and the Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI) have kept this in mind in designing their affordable housing program.
Why Houston needs affordable rental options
47% of all renter households in Greater Houston were cost-burdened, paying more than 30% of their income for housing costs,” said Harvard researcher Jon Spader in a 2017 Houston Public Media story. “25% were severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income for housing costs.”
The situation has worsened since the pandemic. While big, expensive cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles experienced rent cost declines during 2020, rent for a studio apartment rose by 12.1% in Houston. Two years later, the trend continues with a 6.37% year-over-year rise in average rent in Houston.
MRA’s legal mandate
The law requires that MRA spends 30% of its revenues on affordable housing, but there is no requirement that the housing is within Midtown Houston. As a result, the agency is fulfilling its affordable housing commitment in nearby Greater Third Ward, where vacant land is cheaper and more plentiful.
Since its inception, the MRA/CCPPI initiative has resulted in the construction of more than 600 affordable housing units. Nearly three-quarters of those units, 456, are multi-family rental properties for low-to-moderate-income families and individuals.
MRA and CCPPI are not in the business of building housing. Instead, they make available tracts of land or provide cash grants to for-profit and nonprofit developers with construction experience. To date, the rental projects have included single-room efficiency apartments for formerly homeless individuals, housing for seniors and the disabled, and the largest LGBTQ-affirming apartment complex in the nation.
“We’ve been doing this for 25 years, and we hope to continue doing it for at least another 25 more,” said MRA Real Estate Project Manager Todd Edwards. “Affordable rental housing can help alleviate some of the pressures lower-income households face. It also helps eliminate some of the inequities and discrimination underserved families and individuals have faced in the housing market.”