Thursday, October 08, 2020

Pernicious housing rule would worsen homelessness, make Texas less safe

We keep hearing how concerned Governor Greg Abbott has been over homelessness, but a rule proposed at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) would make matters worse.

TDHCA has suggested forbidding access to supportive housing for two years for anyone convicted of a nonviolent felony, for three years for certain offenses involving guns, retaliation, or obstruction, and imposing lifetime bans for people convicted of sex offenses, any "murder-related offense," sexual assault, or arson. Even a Class A misdemeanor would get a one-year ban.

What's the point of this except to exclude people from supportive housing options who would otherwise end up homeless? Would we be safer if felons, sex offenders, etc., are all desperate and living on the streets, or if they're housed with services and support that give them a chance to turn their lives around?

In a story I'd missed when it came out, the Houston Chronicle reported the agency has no "statistics showing there was a crime problem at TDHCA-backed housing" and does not even track that information. So this is clearly a leap-before-you-look situation.

Grits first wondered if this was proposed to undermine anti-homeless initiatives in the big cities, sabotaging them so the governor could later say they didn't work. Then a rumor reached your correspondent saying the rule may be a favor to a donor who opposes a specific development. In the Chronicle story, TDHCA said they're responding to complaints, but wouldn't say by whom. Who knows where it came from? 

What we do know is that felons leaving TDCJ already struggle mightily to find housing, particularly those with special needs who would most benefit from supportive housing options.

This proposal makes Texas less safe and should be rejected, adamantly, by the TDHCA board.

To communicate with TDHCA about the proposal, email comments to Deadline is tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 9) by 5 p.m..

MORE: See related Texas Tribune coverage.

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