A draft of the city’s displacement policy, also known as the risk mitigation policy, is now available.
The city has been holding public meetings since October on the policy, including this one two weeks ago, but the resulting document hasn’t come without criticism. One participant at the last meeting the policy is little more than a Band-Aid and doesn’t address the root causes of displacement—mainly gentrification, she said. The city’s rebuttal? There are policies in place that address gentrification, or there are policies in the works that address gentrification.
We’re still studying the policy, but here’s a CliffsNotes version of what it proposes:
» The risk mitigation policy is funded by $1 million from the city’s general fund.
» The bulk of the million—$650,000—helps people who face displacement, because of development, with moving costs. They must make 80 percent of the area median income or less to qualify. If the development is receiving incentives from the city, the developer or landowner is required to help with moving costs.
» An emergency assistance fund—$250,000—helps people stay in their current residence by offering rental assistance if the tenant experiences a medical crisis, is suddenly unemployed, or endures other unexpected emergencies. However, the tenant must provide documentation as proof they’re experiencing the hardship.
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» The third component, called a rental incentive fund—$100,000—pays for repairs or damages in the event a displaced person with a criminal background or history of eviction, damages the unit. In exchange, the tenant doesn’t pay a deposit or a risk assessment fee when they move into the unit. According to the city, landlords could access this fund and “increase the number of available units for relocation.”
Last year, the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force recommended a policy be crafted largely because of situations like the direct displacement of more than 100 low-income homes at the Mission Trails mobile home park in late-2014, early-2015, which was done for luxury apartments that benefited from city incentives; and the changes that continue at the Soap Factory apartments (aka SoapWorks and TowneCenter), which experienced changes after a Houston developer purchased the properties, next to the San Pedro Creek project.
In an interview late last year, Veronica Soto, director of the city’s Neighborhood and Housing Service Department (NHSD), said that the Center City Development and Operations department, which oversees the downtown housing incentives program known as CCHIP, had conducted two displacement studies. On Jan. 15, the Heron requested those studies from CCDO, but our request was not answered.
NHSD will hold its last meeting on the policy on 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, at the Urban Ecology Center at Phil Hardberger Park, 8400 N.W. Military Highway.
We’ll have a more in-depth examination of the policy after Monday’s meeting.
NHSD is seeking public input, which you can give here no later than 5 p.m. Feb. 4.
Setting It Straight: A previous version of this article incorrectly described how a tenant would qualify for the emergency assistance fund.