Affordable housing project moves forward despite pushback from residents in Upper Kirby

Thursday, February 23, 2023
Affordable housing project moves forward despite pushback
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner moves forward with an affordable housing project in the Upper Kirby area despite pushback from nearby residents.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- People living in Upper Kirby are upset that city council passed a resolution that could bring more affordable housing to their neighborhood.

The plan to make the Felicity Oaks development a residential building with some units specifically for affordable housing is moving forward.

While Mayor Sylvester Turner has heard from people who don't want it for a number of reasons, he voted in support of the project.

"I cannot vote no and feel good about it," Mayor Turner said. "I'm not going to give power to that negative element."

Neighbors responded.

"What the mayor said today was a great disservice to the conversation that was had up until this point," Alexander Vitenas, who lives behind the building, said. "This section has 89 homes. That project is 120 units coming in with all of the traffic coming through our small surface streets, creating even more traffic."

Vitenas said he's not opposed to the idea of affordable housing. He just wants it somewhere else.

"My suggestion would be those sites on Buffalo Speedway," he said.

Turner said he's heard people give reasons for not wanting affordable housing in their communities time and time again.

"So, we should have affordable housing in every other place - 'except,'" he asked. "That's what we are going to say today?"

The resolution, along with 15 others on different developments throughout the city, will now go to a state representative.

READ MORE: Houston wanted to lead the nation in long-term affordable housing. Now it's backpedaling.

The state will make a decision on which of the 16 developer applications submitted from Houston will be allowed to have affordable housing.

The developer of those chosen properties will get tax credits. Vitenas is frustrated that he hasn't heard from the developer.

"He didn't even make the effort to talk to the homeowners' associations that collectively represent the households," Vitenas said. "Nor did he make any effort to talk to the adjacent neighbors along the property line."

The building is in Councilwoman Mary Nan Huffman's district. She wishes there was more communication from the developer.

"We get community engagement in every other place, but this one?" Huffman asked during Wednesday's city council meeting.

She said more could have been done before Wednesday's vote.

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"We told this developer time and time again, 'Engage the community.' And he didn't," she said. "Even after Council Member Kubosh, tagged it for an additional week. He didn't do it because he doesn't care."

ABC13 called the developer but has not heard back yet.

Turner and some other council members supported the resolution.

"Should we punish the people who need housing because the developer didn't do everything we desire of him to do?" Turner asked during the meeting.

Turner said everyone needs a place to live, and he will not give power to any negative feelings about it.

"I choose not to reward it, as the expense of people not getting affordable housing in this city," Turner said.

As for Vitenas, he plans to keep fighting.

"We'll continue to raise our objections on the state level and we'll see what happens," he said.

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