First They Fled Abuse; The Next Battle Was Over Housing

Leah Binkovitz | @leahbink | March 13, 2017

As home prices have increased, and affordability has become more challenging, the average stay of people at the Fort Bend Women’s Center climbed from six weeks to 11 weeks.

“If they could find a place to live,” says center director Vita Goodell, “most of them would be ready to move out in 30 days.”

So in 2016, the center decided on a different approach. If its clients — women who fled from abuse — couldn’t find affordable housing on their own, it would build it for them. Even better, the proposed facility would have services on-site that would allow Fort Bend Women’s Center to support clients, even when they’ve moved outside the shelter.

The center put together an application for a low-income housing tax credit, also funded through the federal government, that could help fund construction of a 104-unit complex in Fort Bend County they called Magnolia Gardens.

But the local community pushed back, circulating online petitions objecting to the “low-income” project. In the end, the local homeowner’s association didn’t give the go-ahead to the municipal utility district to provide critical hook-up to water and sewage, effectively killing the project.

So in January, Goodell submitted the pre-application for another round of tax credits once again, hoping she could make the case at a new location to a new set of homeowner’s associations and residents. She went to meetings with concerned neighbors and handed out her cell phone number for anyone with questions.

It didn’t take long to start hearing those concerns: decreased property values, crowded schools, increased crime. The list went on and on. And most of the concerns were unfounded.

Read the full story at Housing of Houston, a new series covering the diverse people searching for housing in the country’s most dynamic metropolitan area.

New stories posted the second Monday of the month to HousingOfHouston.com.

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