Dallas-Area Lawmakers Question Housing Department

State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-103) speaks with reporter on House floor. February 8th,2011
State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-103) speaks with reporter on House floor. February 8th,2011

Dallas-area lawmakers came before the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs board Tuesday morning, warning members against granting tax credits to low-income housing developers who haven’t met all of the state’s requirements, and suggesting there are perceptions of abuse.  

Of particular concern, both to these lawmakers and to the governor’s office, is the board’s record of granting “forward commitments” — using its discretion to award tax credits to developers outside the bounds of the department’s traditional scoring process, which takes into account the project’s cost and site conditions, among other factors. That means some projects have received tax credits despite scoring lower than other competing proposals.

“It is important to have one set of rules for participants in any competitive process,” state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, said at the hearing. “I fear forward commitments create two sets of rules, for those who go through the competitive process and score at a certain level, and others who merely receive a forward commitment.”

Central to Tuesday’s hearing was one Dallas development project — Champion Homes at Copperridge — that appeared poised to receive a forward commitment from the board, despite scoring lower than a second Dallas development project that did not receive tax credits, Hatcher Square. The Dallas Morning News reported on the controversy on Sunday.

On Tuesday afternoon, after hearing testimony from Dallas lawmakers and proponents for both projects, board members voted unanimously not to grant the additional approval the Copperridge project needed to proceed.

“It’s better for the state and everyone we represent if everyone just does it by the books,” said state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas.

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