Power and property are up for grabs. Last week the Washington Terrace Civic Association (WTCA) made a power play at Houston planning commission and walked away with a two-week deferral for a pending townhome development. Residents made the case for preserving affordable single-family homes in their rapidly gentrifying community. They also presented a three-pronged approach to slowing gentrification city-wide in the process. The community protection standards include:
- Establishing minimum lot size protections for established neighborhoods (blocks with at least 75 percent consistent housing stock). This places the burden of petitioning on developers rather than residents.
- City-supported Complete Communities plans
- Diverse representation on the mayor-appointed planning commission
“This city puts the burden of responsibility on people who have no knowledge or experience navigating the planning process to protect themselves.Meanwhile, developers have a low barrier of entry and sophisticated teams to circumvent any obstacles that arise,” said Super Neighborhood 67 president, Jason Hyman.
Jason, an urban planner and real estate professional with experience building affordable homes with the city, galvanized community residents after seeing a posted variance request. During public testimony the commission learned that the developer had initially posted the notice in the incorrect location. This mistake violated the public notice period and will require the developer to give additional notice. The community is using this time to gather signatures and submit an application for minimum lot size standards on Rosewood street.
On several occasions, commission member David Abraham made a point to tell community residents, “it’s your responsibility to use the tools the city has in place.” There was never a mention of what the tools were, where to find them or an offer to assist unfamiliar residents with the process.
“It’s time for the City to decide where it stands and reconsider the policy guiding development in established communities,” Jason said. “Weakening community bonds, and pricing seniors and low-income families out of their homes in the name of development is a violation of civil rights,” he continued. Minority communities across the country are grappling with gentrification and there is now research to show the damaging effects.
WTCA remains hopeful in its fight to maintain its identity and preserve affordability. Residents have taken the commission’s advice to employ the tools available and have submitted a minimum lot size application to prevent the division of lots. They are also hoping the city is willing to consider the proposal they put forth and work towards community-driven development.
To show support, join WTCA at the next planning commission meeting located at City Hall on Thursday, May 21, 2019 at 2:30 pm.