Homeless Texans would have a better chance of receiving tax-subsidized housing units helping them to secure more permanent homes. This regulation applies to new supportive housing projects, which provide subsidized homes and social services. Governor Greg Abbott still needs to approve the rule by December 1st.
Slightly backing off a controversial plan that would make it harder for homeless Texans with specific criminal histories to live in tax-subsidized housing units means to help them get permanent homes. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs decided this.
At a meeting Thursday, November 5th, agency officials said they would drop a proposal blocking people with convictions for nonviolent felonies. As well as class A misdemeanors from living in new developments paid with what is called Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
Yet the agency still plans to ban potential tenants who have done some violent felonies and some drug-related offenses for three to seven years after their convictions. That last planned prohibition has some homeless organizations saying the proposed rule will still make it hard to get homeless people into “supportive housing” developments.
Supportive housing projects get funds through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. They give developers tax benefits in exchange for building homes leasing at below-market rates. Once they’re built, developers and local providers get together to connect tenants. They were in the past homeless and provide them with support services such as mental health or substance use programs. The developer or external agencies provide these services in order to help tenants get back on their feet.
“We changed the language drastically,” Bobby Wilkinson, executive director of TDHCA, said during the hearing.
The projects are only one kind of housing. They are created by the housing programs. Yet advocates say they are key to fighting homelessness.
“If we are going to reach our goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring, our homeless response systems need access to low barrier affordable and supportive housing,” said Eric Samuels, president of the Texas Homeless Network. This organization coordinates statewide homelessness efforts. “We need low barrier affordable and supportive housing to end homelessness. So, for this reason, we opposed adding the tenant criminal background screening criteria.”