In his newspaper column last week trying to explain why Galveston can’t use vouchers to meet our public housing needs, the Mayor missed an important point: We have already met those needs with vouchers.
Housing Authority Executive Director Stanley Lowe wrote to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development April 19, saying the 170 households displaced by Hurricane Ike have temporary vouchers now, and he asks to make those vouchers permanent.
Check my math, but if we needed 170 housing units and met that need with 170 vouchers, the need is zero. We certainly don’t need to subsidize building over 700 more units.
Common business practice is to identify a need and fill it. In this case, the need is zero. The Mayor quotes a study that used pre-Ike data to justify his plan, but even that study cites the need for updated information.
Further, Galveston already has some 1,500 vouchers in use. Those could be augmented to meet future needs, without subsidizing new construction. Even HUD’s guidelines advise against rebuilding in disaster-prone areas where there is no job growth.
We don’t need any new units, HUD advises not to build them there, and we have viable alternatives like vouchers. What part of that does the Mayor not understand?
The great opportunity today is to transform vacant public housing land into private development to grow our population, economy and tax base.
That’s what Galveston did with the former Island City Homes, a public housing project on the West End. Part of that land is now Colony Park, worth millions on our tax base. We can and should do likewise with the Oleander Homes and Magnolia Homes sites, prime real estate that could become thriving businesses and single-family homes, not the mixed-income apartments proposed by the Housing Authority.
This is where we need leadership, experience and common business sense, and that’s why I’m running for Mayor.
If the Housing Authority truly cares about Galveston, why have they let those vacant lots become such eyesores? It’s been four years since the storm, and they need to clean up their mess. Pick up the trash, mend the fences and get a lawn mower out there once a week, like any responsible property owner.
What evidence do we have they will maintain any new housing better than they have in the past? With hundreds of employees and reams of housing quality standards, why did the old public housing look so bad? If homes in the voucher program are substandard, who was in charge of enforcing the standards? If the Housing Authority wants to improve something, why not fix up its own properties, like Gulf Breeze and Holland House, to provide better living conditions for the elderly and disabled who live there?
Too many government programs and mandates today just don’t make sense. Here’s an opportunity to fix that, and I hope you will support common sense by voting for Lewis Rosen for Mayor on May 12.