Affordable housing development denied after much public input at Georgetown City Council

The proposed affordable housing project, pictured, was denied with four council members against it and two for it. (Rendering courtesy city of Georgetown, KCG Development)
The proposed affordable housing project, pictured, was denied with four council members against it and two for it. (Rendering courtesy city of Georgetown, KCG Development)

The proposed affordable housing project, pictured, was denied with four council members against it and two for it. (Rendering courtesy city of Georgetown, KCG Development)

Image description
The SaddleCreek apartment complex was to be located at the northwest corner of Sam Houston and Bell Gin Road. (Rendering courtesy city of Georgetown, KCG Development)
Georgetown City Council denied a resolution July 14 that would have granted housing tax credits to three affordable housing projects.

Espero Landing was to consist of 206 units of affordable housing for families, and Asperanza Heights was to offer 144 affordable units for seniors. The SaddleCreek apartment complex was to be located at the northwest corner of Sam Houston Avenue and Bell Gin Road. KCG Development proposed a tax exemption for its project, meaning the parcel would not generate real estate taxes for the city.

Georgetown has more than two times the state average per capita amount of housing tax credit units. Because of this, the state requires developers to obtain a resolution from the city before they can submit an application for housing tax credits, according to staff documents.

“In Texas, there is an average of 0.0097 tax credit units for each state resident,” staff documents said. “In Georgetown, we have 0.027 units per person, 2.82 times the average amount of statewide units of tax credit.”

District 3 Council Member Mike Triggs, District 4 Council Member Steve Fought, District 5 Council Member Kevin Pitts and District 7 Council Member Tommy Gonzalez voted against the affordable housing project. District 1 Council Member Mary Calixtro and District 6 Council Member Rachael Jonrowe voted in favor.

About 40 residents submitted public comments against the project, and six commented in support of it.

Those against the development cited concerns about an increase in crime and a decrease in property value. They said they would prefer to see retail on the land, and many said the lack of public transportation could result in about 350 more cars in the neighborhood. They also said they believed Georgetown has enough affordable units already.

Those in favor of the project said it would allow essential workers to live where they work and promote a better quality of life. Several said it would support individuals trying to improve their lives and get ahead and help ensure housing for all people. They also cited its adherence to the Georgetown 2030 Comprehensive Plan's goals for diverse housing.

City staff recommended the project; they said they found the application to be complete and to further the goals of the 2030 plan, which indicates a future need for more affordable housing.

Project goals

KCG representative Ina Spokas also cited the city’s 2030 plan, noting that 51% of all renters are cost-burdened and 21% are extremely cost-burdened. She pointed out that according to the city, only 3% of total rental units are under $1,250, which is a 90% decline from 2013.

“I know there has been a lot of discussion about how Georgetown is over two times per capita [for affordable housing standards],” Spokas said, “but that number does not relate to demand. ... The existing 14 [affordable housing developments] in Georgetown are at capacity and have waiting lists.”

There is a disparity between the wages people are earning and the cost of living, Spokas said, citing the city’s 2017 commissioned workforce analysis. According to the study, 75% of Georgetown’s workforce does not live in the community.

“Your dog groomers, child care providers, senior care providers ... a lot of them fit into the demographic,” Spokas said. “I need to reiterate: These are people who have jobs and have income, which means they have cars, they have cell phones and they have families.”

Tenants would have needed to prove they had a verifiable income, passed a stringent background check and paid 100% of their rent.

She added there is not a lot of land in Georgetown that is zoned as multifamily, but the SaddleCreek location is, and as such, it would not require a change of land use.

The city requires applicants making a tax exemption request such as this one to conduct public outreach to the surrounding neighborhoods and provide detailed information about the project. KCG presented the project at the June 15 Georgetown Housing Advisory Board meeting and hosted two virtual public meetings. The developers also contacted nearby residents via mail and utilized the SaddleCreek Homeowners Association to send an email and post information on the association’s website.

About 80 people attended the June 12 public meeting, and about 25 attended the July 10 meeting.

Council response

At the July 14 meeting, Gonzalez asked Housing Director Susan Watkins if the project was approved, is there a guarantee renters of the units currently live or work in Georgetown? Watkins said no, there is not.

“I am sympathetic to the cause, ... but other towns in the area need to be doing their share. We’re nearly three times as much [for total affordable units average], and I’m very concerned about the burden on the schools,” Council Member Fought said.

Council Member Triggs said that while he believes affordable housing is needed, he does not like the proposed location for it at SaddleCreek.

“I think there is a lot of information we should get prior to doing this,” he said. “I just think there are too many things up in the air."

Council Member Pitts said he does not see the need for affordable housing that is being pushed for so strongly, as the city has more units than surrounding areas and is above average in the state. He said he does not understand the assumption that everyone must live in Georgetown as opposed to commuting.

“Before I lived here, I lived in Temple, and I commuted back and forth because at the time, that’s what I could afford,” Pitts said. “I didn’t think twice about it. I just drove and went to work. I’m not in favor of this, and I won’t be in favor of any other affordable [housing] project that comes forward.”

Jonrowe said focusing on the fact the city has more than two times the state average per capita may not be the best metric to use.

“With the rate of growth we’re seeing in Georgetown, how many affordable housing units would we need to see built every year just to maintain that overall percentage?” Jonrowe asked.

Watkins said the 2030 plan’s housing element does speak to the number of new units projected based on population growth, and if similar income compositions are maintained, the need for affordable housing would far exceed what the city has been able to produce over the past 10 years.

Jonrowe also said she has noticed the same concerns come from the community whenever a multifamily project is proposed, especially when it is a subsidized one. She suggested the city put together an FAQ sheet to be proactive in providing information to neighborhoods.

“There is research that has been done and data we can provide to people so they are making fact-based arguments,” she said.

“If not now, when?” Calixtro asked about the project. “Did we just waste a lot of time adding affordable housing into the 2030 plan? We know we’re going to be behind if we don’t do something. ... If we are a caring community innovating for the future, then when are we going to get these affordable housing issues solved? When are we going to act on them?”
By Sally Grace Holtgrieve
Sally Grace Holtgrieve solidified her passion for news during her time as Editor-in-Chief of Christopher Newport University's student newspaper, The Captain's Log. She started her professional career at The Virginia Gazette and moved to Texas in 2015 to cover government and politics at The Temple Daily Telegram. She started working at Community Impact Newspaper in February 2018 as the Lake Travis-Westlake reporter and moved into the role of Georgetown editor in June 2019.


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