The property at 402 Columbia, left, is the site where a developer is proposing an affordable housing complex shown Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Houston.
A developer’s plans to build a mixed-income apartment complex in the Heights appears to be on the skids after weeks of opposition from nearby residents and the lack of support by a key state official.
Chicago-based Brinshore Development was seeking competitive tax credits worth as much as $15 million to help fund the proposed project, slated for a 1-acre site about a block north of the Interstate 10 frontage road between Studemont and Heights Boulevard. The state allocates a limited number of tax credits each year and proposals supported by neighborhood groups and government officials are more likely to be successful in securing them.
After meeting with Brinshore in mid-February, State Rep. Jessica Farrar declined to put her support behind its application.
“They came to me pretty late in the game,” Farrar said. “By then I had already heard from constituents that they did not support the project.”
Those who opposed the project, planned for the 400 block of Columbia, said they were worried about increased traffic, emergency vehicle access and how the new building would tax the city’s plumbing and sewer systems. They said the complex would be out of scale with the neighborhood.
After hearing the residents concerns earlier this year, Brinshore, which builds similar properties across the country, said it would reduce the size of the building from five stories and as many as 85 units to four stories with 67 units. It later reduced the the number of units a second time — to 60 — and made other concessions.
“We changed the project dramatically,” said Brinshore Vice President Scott Puffer, “addressing every concern voiced to us.”
Houston City Council last month approved a resolution to support Brinshore’s tax credit application, among others, but Farrar’s lack of support meant the project would likely be declined by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which administers the low-income housing tax program.
The application was due March 1 and Brinshore decided not to submit one.
“At this point we won’t score enough to get an award of tax credits and we don’t know if there is a path forward,” Puffer said.
Brinshore was set to pay $3.6 million for the property, which is owned by a family estate, according to a December purchase contract filed with the state agency. A previous deal to sell the property to a hotel developer also fell apart. A representative of the seller could not be reached for comment.
The apartment complex would have included one- and two-bedroom units for residents with a mix of income ranges.
In an attempt to win over the neighbors, Brinshore told residents it would not develop the northernmost portion of the site, instead using it for an art installation or keeping it as landscaped space. It committed to donating $50,000 for community enhancement and made other assurances to residents.
Farrar said Brinshore’s efforts came a little too late.
In order to secure tax credits, she stressed, “you really have to have the community buy-in.”