Oct. 26, 2011
Email: Cameron.firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
To: Mr. Cameron Dorsey
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
P.O. Box 13941
Austin, TX 78711-3941
RE: Comments on the Proposed 10 TAC, Chapter 50, Qualified Allocation Plan §§50.1–50.17
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities offers the following recommendations regarding the 2012 State of Texas Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) for allocation of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). The proposed changes to the QAP are significant and we hope the board will evaluate these changes mindful that the dollar-for-dollar tax credit for affordable housing investments is responsible for the majority of rental housing development for low-income Texans with and without disabilities.
According to TDHCA, approximately $54 million in annual tax credits will be made available in 2011 to developers. And as you know, TDHCA is the only entity in the state of Texas with the authority to allocate tax credits under this program. This highlights the importance of the tax credit program in the development of affordable housing that reaches all low-income populations. Our understanding of discussion at recent TDHCA board meetings regarding the QAP suggested that the LIHTC program was not designed to serve people with disabilities or those at extremely low income levels.
LIHTC is a tax payer supported program designed to reach the broad spectrum of recipients. Individuals with significant disabilities are represented across the spectrum of income, geography, and ethnicity. People with significant disabilities are frequently individuals with low incomes and as such are also included as the intended beneficiaries of low income housing. TCDD urges TDHCA to modify the QAP to promote the opportunity of Texans with developmental disabilities at the Supplemental Security Income level ($698 per month beginning 2012) to access integrated, accessible low-income housing in their communities.
TCDD makes the following recommendations to specific sections of the QAP:
§50.2 (15) (C) High Opportunity Area
The mission of TDHCA is to help Texans achieve an improved quality of life. Providing incentives for housing for low-income Texans where there are jobs and education opportunities is an important step. The addition of language to encourage development in high opportunity areas is important to keep folks near jobs and high-quality education. The language to encourage housing near public transportation is appreciated, but locating a development within one-half mile of public transportation is just one piece of the equation. Transportation must be useable by the pedestrian.
We recommend replacing language in §50.2. (15)(C) with the language from §50.2(23) Transit Oriented District by striking “within a half-mile of public transportation” and substituting “within a radius of one-quarter mile from an existing or proposed transit stop, designed to encourage pedestrian activities and maximize access to public transportation.”
§50.2 (20) Single Room Occupancy
The definition of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) is confusing and concerning. It states an SRO is an efficiency that facilitates transitional housing and is required to be supportive housing. It further states SRO’s must be buildings comprised solely of SRO’s. The QAP does not define “efficiency apartment.” Supportive housing is defined in the QAP, §50.2(22), as residential rental for individuals who need specialized non-medical services to maintain independent living. Transitional housing is defined in §50.2. (26) as supportive housing exclusively for transition within 24 months to independent living for individuals who are homeless and at-risk of homeless. This multi-pronged definition muddies the distinct differences in these terms.
SRO’s, according to the National Housing Act § 221(d) (3) and 221(d) (4)1, are aimed at those tenants who have a source of income but are priced out of the rental apartment market. One of the populations in that market are people with developmental disabilities who rely on Social Security Income, currently $684 per month, as their only income. TCDD believes the department should not limit SRO’s to buildings comprised solely of SRO’s. This model does not promote integration, inclusion and economic opportunity. The single residence occupancy unit can and should be encouraged to be incorporated into integrated multi-family apartment buildings.
§50.2 (22) Supportive Housing
The definition of supportive housing is not consistent with current thinking. TCDD recommends that the QAP strike “specialized and specific non-medical services to maintain independent living” and replace it with the language in the definition of service-enriched housing developed by the TDHCA’s Housing and Health Services Coordinating Council: “the opportunity to receive on-site or off-site health-related and other services and supports that foster independence in living and decision-making.”2 Individuals in supportive housing need medical and behavioral health services and supports, in addition to non-medical services, such as employment readiness and job search.
Supportive housing is also proven to help people who are persistently homeless find stability. Homeless individuals have persistent issues that may include substance use, mental illness, and HIV/AIDS that require medical and behavioral health supports. A developer cannot be expected to provide medical services, but they need to locate supportive housing accessible to these services.
For individuals with developmental disabilities and/or mental illness, supportive housing may be the essential element in achieving independence and integration. Supportive housing is intended to be a pragmatic solution that helps people succeed while reducing the overall cost of care delivered by public funding.3
§50.2 (26) Transitional Housing
The definition states transitional housing is supportive housing with “more limited” individual kitchen and bathroom facilities. We do not find a reference to kitchen or bathroom, or a “limited” individual kitchen or bathroom in supportive housing, or a definition of these terms in the §1.1. Definitions and Amenities for Housing Program Activities proposed along with this QAP. TCDD offers that the QAP remove “more limited” in §50.2 (26).
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, (American National Standard (ANSI A117.1) cover all multi-family housing built since 1991 and require all units to have kitchens and bathrooms that provide for a parallel approach by a person in a wheelchair provided at the range or cook top and sink, and either a parallel or forward approach provided at oven, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, etc. Bathrooms must provide for sufficient maneuvering space within the bathroom for a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid to enter and close the door, use the fixtures, and reopen the door and exit. Included with these comments is a chart outlining the requirements for bathrooms and kitchens under the Fair Housing Act of 1988 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Families and children are among Texas homeless population. According the May 2011 annual count of homeless, Harris County had 11,000 homeless children as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act.4 These children and their families need a home with a place to cook and sit down together, even in transitional housing.
§50.2 (23) Transit Oriented District
TCDD believes the department should not delete the definition of transit oriented development. Perhaps a 30% increase in eligible basis is not necessary, but the department should still encourage, differentiate and favor transit oriented development. Transit oriented districts are not only about housing, but conscious planning for employment, access to goods and services, the ability to participate in religious services and connect to community for people of all incomes and abilities.
TDHCA tax credits should be used to promote responsible and responsive development across Texas that is integrated, accessible to community and transportation and located in areas that provide opportunity for individuals with and without disabilities to participate and prosper.
Thank you for considering our comments.
TCDD Public Policy Specialist
Attachment: 504/FHA Modifications Chart
Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
- American National Standard (ANSI A117.1)
- Covers ALL Multi-family housing built since 1991
Types of Requirements
- Does not provide for any fully accessible units.
- Requires usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space
- Allows tenants to make reasonable physical modifications at tenants expense
In all units:
- Kitchens: provide for a parallel approach by a person in a wheelchair is provided at the range or cooktop and sink, and either a parallel or forward approach is provided at oven, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, etc.
- Bathroom: provide for sufficient maneuvering space within the bathroom for a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid to enter and close the door, use the fixtures, reopen the door and exit.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) Design Standards
- Covers multi-family housing developed using federal funds (Tax Credit developments are not considered to federally funded)
Types of Requirements
- Housing projects must include 5% of the units made accessible at the time of construction for mobility impairments, 2% for hearing or vision impairments.
- Owner must pay for reasonable physical and other modifications requested by tenants.
- 5% of units are made accessible to comply with UFAS which provide for additional features beyond FHA requirements such as:
- Consumer Information: Notification of features that are constructed to be modified
- At least one section of counter shall provide a work surface at a maximum height of 34 in. above the floor or shall be adjustable or replaceable as a unit to provide alternative heights.
- A clear floor space 30 in by 48 in. allows a forward approach to the counter.
- A clear floor space 30 in by 48 in. shall allow forward approach to the sink.
- The location of controls for ranges and cook-tops shall not require reaching across burners.
- Maximum height shall be 48 in. for at least one shelf of all cabinets mounted above work counters.
- Door pulls or handles for wall cabinets shall be mounted as close to the bottom of cabinet doors as possible. Door pulls or handles for base cabinets shall be mounted as close to the top of cabinet doors as possible.
- Clear area at either side of the toilet is 3 in. greater than ANSI standards.
- Height of the toilet is at least 15 in. and no more than 19 in. measured to the top of seat.
- 2% modified to provide for auxiliary alarms.
- Homes and Communities. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved October 25, 2011. ↩
- Housing and Health Services Coordination Council 2010-2011 Biennial Plan (PDF). Submitted to Governor Rick Perry and the Legislative Budget Board Retrieved October 25, 2011. ↩
- Journal of Housing & Community Development, March/April 2008 p. 18-21. ↩
- Homeless population increases 25% in Houston: Homeless population keeps increasing; coalition finds Fort Bend, Harris counties up 25% over ’10. Houston Chronicle. May 23, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2011. ↩