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Heated Galveston housing debate ending in a whisper

EJP provided mixed-finance technical assistance to the Galveston Housing Authority to develop and implement its Disaster Recovery Master Plan. Currently, EJP provides technical assistance and mixed-finance development advisory services.

The final chapter in one of the most controversial periods in contemporary island history is nearing completion — the mixed-income Oleanders at Broadway housing development is expected to open in November 2023.

Construction of the development, 5200 Broadway, was noteworthy for the lack of interest it drew, compared to the heated opposition to mixed-income developments built years before.

The plan to replace 569 public housing units demolished after being flooded during Hurricane Ike in 2008 sparked incendiary opposition, led to every supporter being voted off the city council and ousted from the Galveston Housing Authority Board, generated studies, counter studies and litigation.

The fight ended when federal officials made clear they would demand return of $590 million in disaster aid allocated to Galveston after Hurricane Ike, much of which already had been spent, and would reclaim $3 billion in aid allocated to Texas for both Ike and Hurricane Dolly.

City leaders broke ground last year on the massive $114 million project to construct the Oleanders at Broadway, the last large-scale public-housing development needed to replace the 569 units lost to Ike.

It, like two other development already housing people, is called mixed-income and differs from old-line “housing projects” because it contains both fully subsidized public housing and market-rate units.

“Twelve years ago, this housing authority and this community made a promise,” said Betty Massey, vice chairwoman of the Galveston Housing Authority. “It was a legal promise, and it was a moral promise to replace 569 units of public housing. We’re coming to the end of that promise.”

The Galveston Housing Authority and the Texas General Land Office are bound by a legal agreement with federal authorities to replace all the housing that was torn down.

Mayor Craig Brown praised the mixed-income complex, noting how it brings together market-rate and public-housing units in one 348-unit development.

“It also brings into play for the first time workforce housing,” Brown said.

In addition to 174 public-housing units, the 11.5-acre project will include 87 low-income housing tax-credit units, which also count toward the fulfillment of the housing authority’s obligation of 287 units that remain from the original 569, Massey said.

Another 87 units will be market rate units, Massey said.

Construction of Villas on the Strand, in the 1500 block of Strand Street, and its sister property, The Cedars at Carver Park, in the 2900 block of Ball Street, began in September 2014 following years of political unrest over the return of public housing to the city.

No waiting list is available for the Oleanders, but 2,136 people are on lists for Villas on the Strand and The Cedars at Carver Park, according to the housing authority.

The two developments include 145 units of public or subsidized housing, about a quarter of the 569 public units lost in Hurricane Ike.

The public-housing units are available only to people who make very low incomes. The tax-credit units allow people making a slightly higher income to qualify.

It’s been a long road to get to the final major mixed-income development, Massey said.

“The same people who said those mix-income housing wouldn’t work would now tell you they’re wrong,” Massey said.

By José Mendiola | The Daily News | Sep 23, 2022


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