Change the rules for the 9% tax credit program to require all local governments to hold a public hearing and/or public comment period before they vote on a resolution in support of an application.
This petition had 47 supporters
When general citizen notification is not required for these types of public-private partnerships, many citizens will not have the opportunity to participate in the process. Most Texas citizens do not even know this program exists.
Please see these articles for background on two recent 9% Housing Tax Credit applications that went through two years of TDHCA rules that do not require general citizen notifications: Dallas Morning News article and McKinney Courier-Gazette article.
Every citizen should feel secure in knowing that nothing will impact them or their local area without their knowledge and without their ability to participate in the process.
The TDHCA is part of a program that uses indirect federal subsidies to encourage developers to build subsidized low-income housing in all areas. The developers sell the tax credits to get funding from syndicators or other investors. Often, large corporations invest because they want/need the tax credits. These large corporations then take the tax credits off their federal taxes they owe for a 10 year period.
The TDHCA’s competitive 9% tax credit program has a yearly cycle: there’s the application from the developer for the 9% Tax Credit reward in February, there’s the public participation component where citizens can write letters and/or attend TDHCA hearings to support or oppose an applicant (February to June), the application is considered by the TDHCA board in June, and TDHCA announces awards in late July.
Current and past TDHCA rules have “encouraged” citizen participation in the process, but there are NO requirements that anyone from state or local government notify citizens of applications in their area so they can participate in the process. Often, this leads to certain individuals knowing about the application, while other citizens are left out.
The developer must notify the following when they apply for the program. Not one listed is required to tell citizens in their community about the application, not even those directly impacted in the area the development is to be built.
- State Senator;
- State Representative;
- Mayor of municipality;
- All city council members;
- County judge;
- All county commissioners;
- School district superintendent;
- School district board of trustees’ presiding officer;
- Neighborhood organizations whose boundaries contain the development site;
To qualify as neighborhood organizations, citizens are required to pre-plan and organize to ensure their participation in a process they most often know nothing about. This requirement puts an undue burden on citizens both financially and organizationally. Citizens must actively seek to become neighborhood organizations by paying fees to the county or state, have bylaws, official meetings, a boundary map, and more. These citizens must also go the additional step to file with the TDHCA in the year before there may be an application from a developer in their area to be an official qualified neighborhood group. For the citizens who are not able to organize, they are unable to qualify as one of these groups.
Developers who apply for the 9% Tax Credit Program must fill out an application that allows them to self-score for points. Since this is a competitive program, only the applicants with the highest points will receive the funds.
The only section of the THDCA application dealing with community engagement does not have a requirement for general citizen notification. Because of this, there is ample opportunity for selective citizen notification (telling those who may agree with the application versus those who may not agree with the application).
There is a clear lack of transparency fostered by this indirect method of citizen participation in the TDHCA process.
If you are a Texas citizen, please sign this petition. It will presented to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in September, 2014. Citizens should know which state programs may impact their lives.
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