AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

HRC hosts Family Town Hall at Cathedral of Hope today

The Human Rights Campaign is in a family way

Upon launching its first ever family committee in DFW, the Human Rights Campaign is having its first panel discussion today. The committee focuses on the ever growing LGBT parenting community in North Texas and serve as a model for future chapters under the HRC’s Family Project initiative. The initiative address topics such as adoption, unions, family law, education, healthcare and more. What’s more, this is prime territory for the Family Project. Texas ranks fourth in states with LGBT family populations.

Today’s town hall is the first in a family-focused event to foster conversation on adoption and foster care and moderated by attorney Lorie Birch. LGBT parents and those hoping to be can gather more and new information on the idea of expanding or starting a family.

DEETS: Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. 2 p.m. Free. HRC.org/issues/parenting

—  Rich Lopez

Ask the experts • Defining Homes

Ask the experts

In March 2009, President Obama released the Home Affordable Modification Plan (HAMP). This would help alleviate the pressures of potential foreclosure, lowering monthly payments and still maintaining good standing in credit. But according to RealtyTrac.com’s list of foreclosure hotspots, Dallas/Fort Worth ranked 96 out of 203 with (at the time) more than 10,000 properties listed as foreclosures — a relatively small number considering the populations of both Dallas and Fort Worth. But it does make us ask the experts, “What does Obama’s mortgage aid plan mean for homeowners here and can it help those in search of buying their first home?”

Randy Hodges
Randy Hodges

Randy Hodges,
Dave Perry-Miller InTown
First of all, the federal government’s making homes affordable plan really has helped countless numbers of American families keep their homes. It’s important to note, however, that the programs being offered by the federal government should not be mistaken for a “hand-out.” Rather, these programs offer Americans, who are struggling to avoid foreclosure, the opportunity to restructure their debt by guaranteeing certain aspects of the lending process. The positive in this is that will all be to the benefit of both the homeowner and the lender.

Tomi Kuczynski,
Prudential Texas Properties’ Homes On Call
One of the first glitches I find in the plan for most Dallas/Fort Worth homeowners is the requirement of a loss of at least 15 percent in their home’s value. Most areas throughout the Metroplex have not suffered such losses in value. There are areas such as Preston Hollow, McKinney and Oak Cliff where the numbers neared 20 percent, but these areas have already begun recovery in the market. Furthermore, analysts predict the actual number these lenders will be seeking is closer to 40 percent. If this prediction is true, areas throughout California and Florida will be the benefactors of this relief plan, not the Metroplex.

Each plan has been implemented primarily to prevent foreclosures, which is my second concern. Both plans require homeowners to be up-to-date on their mortgages to qualify. I consider this to be one of the main failures within the first attempt of this plan, and will continue to be a deterrent in providing relief to those who are truly in need for Obama’s second attempt. While they struggle to find an answer, they will not be able to look to this new plan for help without being completely current.

Jeff Updike
Jeff Updike

Steve Shatsky,
Prudential Texas Properties
I think that the greatest impact of the latest mortgage aid plan is that it will keep some percentage of homeowners in their homes rather than displacing them and putting more distressed inventory on the market. In some parts of the country there is excessive inventory and a large percentage of that is distressed sales, so anything that helps keep people in their homes, which helps to lower inventory levels, will also likely aid in stabilizing property values and help them to begin to climb again. Here in Dallas we have a good amount of inventory and that, combined with excellent mortgage rates, already makes it a great time to buy a home regardless of any impact from the latest mortgage aid plan.

Jeff Updike,
Re/Max Urban
We are extremely fortunate because the mortgage delinquency rate in Texas is less than half of the national average. The HAMP and the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) programs will help a small percentage of delinquent borrowers refinance to a permanent mortgage that will help them stay in their home.  For most others, if they cannot make the payments because of unemployment or underemployment, they will probably be forced to sell their home through a “short sale;” otherwise, it may be lost in foreclosure.

Barbara Stone

Barbara Stone

Barbara Stone,
Allie Beth Allman & Associates
If the plan is successful, it will reduce homeowners’ mortgage payments (those homeowners who have been affected by the economic crisis through no fault of their own), and help them stay in their homes instead of being foreclosed; thus reducing the number of foreclosures nationwide.  Another benefit homeowners would realize is a better credit rating, rather than having a foreclosure reflected on their credit report.
And if homes are not foreclosed on, there will be a better chance for these homes to be kept in better condition, rather than being vacated and left untended. If these homes are put on the market, then homebuyers will benefit with a better quality home to purchase.
The Obama mortgage aid plan could also help boost the value of homes and neighborhoods by keeping lower-priced foreclosed homes out of the market. If values stay stronger, then discouraged potential sellers will consider putting their homes up for sale, instead of waiting for the market to rebound. Homebuyers will then have a larger selection of homes to choose.

For more information on the  HAMP  and HAFA programs, visit 2010mortgagerecoveryplan.org or MakingHomeAffordable.gov.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas