AUSTIN (Nexstar)— Finding affordable housing is just getting worse in Texas, with some calling it a crisis.
Lawmakers are looking into ways to make things better. They heard from a variety of people from the housing industry at the state capitol Tuesday.
The Senate Committee on Local Government met to discuss one of its interim charges: affordable housing.
The Texas Department of Community Housing and Affairs financed the development and rehabilitation of nearly 13,000 units in 2021 alone, according to Bobby Wilkinson with TDCHA. However, he told lawmakers the state is still short 100,000 to 200,000 units.
There are a number of programs Texas already has in place, including the housing trust fund, which funds homes to be built each year.
Habitat for Humanity is this program’s largest recipient, Wilkinson said.
“This was kind of like my last chance option,” Kristen Kowalski, a new homeowner who went through Habitat for Humanity Austin, said. “For a long time, I didn’t even look, because it was just so discouraging,”
CEO of Habitat for Humanity Austin Phylilis Snodgrass said they’re doing their best to help their homeowners.
“We’ve got homeowners that we’re working with right now that are teachers and that work for the school district… that work for our hospitals, and they can’t find housing,” Snodgrass said.
On Tuesday, Snodgrass told lawmakers what she thinks would be “common sense policies.”
“Cut back on the time it takes to get someone in a home by using third-party contractors to do the inspections,” Snodgrass said.
It’s a message lawmakers heard from others in the industry.
“Just anything we could do to get hammers swinging and things built faster,” Wilkinson said.
Another concern raised was Texas’ outdated rules and restrictions on development.
“One piece of legislation in the role is that developers who are competing for 9% credits tend to go all chase the same site in the same census tract, which drastically drives up the cost of the land,” Jean Latsha with the Texas affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers said.
The committee hopes to have concrete solutions heading into the next legislative session, but it’s proved to be a complex issue.
Other testimony revealed there are still labor and material shortages making the building process longer.
There’s another hearing Wednesday related to housing. Lawmakers will be talking about property taxes and appraisals.