November 29, 2023

Housing Finance Development

It's Your Housing Finance Development

Equitable community development is simply smart | Opinion

It’s all too easy to forget we are in this together.

Every day, we focus so much on the particulars of our individual daily lives.

We wake up and head to school or work to further our futures. Afterward, we share precious moments with our friends and families.

For so much of our lives, we concentrate on making things better for ourselves and those in our inner circles. We sometimes are blinded by the illusion that we live in our own little, self-contained bubbles.

But we should not forget that here in Victoria, we belong to a greater community.

And when any one part of that community lags behind, we all suffer as a result. Likewise, when a part of the community benefits, we all reap the rewards.

Thankfully, Victoria is blessed with a city government that understands that wisdom. They also understand that improving the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods must be smart and well-planned.

To maximize success, they should involve partnerships with community groups, nonprofits, public institutions and private developers when possible. So far, it seems they have.

“In order for Victoria to be a vibrant and thriving city, all of its neighborhoods must prosper,” say Victoria Assistant City Manager Mike Etienne and Development Services Director Julie Fulgham. “We don’t want to leave any neighborhood behind.”

That attitude may be lofty, but it is not empty. It makes sense, particularly, dollars and cents.

As Victoria becomes a more beautiful, vibrant place to live, we stand a better chance to improve our local economy. Businesses are more willing to come to our community, bringing jobs and investment here. Prospective residents may see our shining city and decide to move their families here. In short, we become bigger and better.

That’s why the Victoria Advocate Editorial Board supports the city’s mission to revitalize neighborhoods hit hard by blight, like the Southside, Silver City and Queen City. Anyone remotely familiar with those areas knows they suffer from increased crime, fewer retail options, rundown infrastructure, decaying housing and many more issues.

But the city has a plan.

Victoria city officials are working to improve those neighborhoods and others through a variety of smart partnerships and projects. Many of those are outlined in the city’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

To improve blighted homes, the city has partnered with the Housing Finance Corporation to create an infill housing program that aims to purchase rundown vacant properties to make them available to private builders who would then flip them into affordable housing. That program is part of a wider effort by the city to partner with developers to build affordable housing and renovate deteriorated homes.

Another Community Development Block Grant program, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, already is providing roof and exterior repairs to eligible low-income households. In October, another CDBG program is expected to offer additional down payment and closing cost assistance.

To improve blighted neighborhoods, the city is partnering with community groups like the Southside Coalition to clean up unsightly trash and debris.

The city also is deploying code inspectors to proactively address tall weeds, outdoor junk, vacant substandard homes and derelict vehicles.

Finally, city officials are working to fill potholes and improve parks.

To improve the lives of residents living in blighted areas, the city is working with Workforce Solutions, Victoria College and other job training providers to increase access to jobs through training for high-demand careers and associated transit improvements.

Those efforts represent some very promising steps forward, but they also must be done in ways to prevent residents from being priced out of their own neighborhoods. City officials say they are aware of that threat and are working to limit that possibility by ensuring many resources are provided for specifically residents at risk.

They are ensuring city-managed resources are available to only low-income households, new infill homes are priced for low- to moderate-income residents, the availability of repair grants and promotion of homestead exemptions for residents older than 65.

There’s a lot going on in our city’s government aimed at improving the worst-off neighborhoods in Victoria, and that’s a good thing.

Not only is it logical economically, but it’s also a matter of community and democracy.

Victoria’s government is charged with serving all the residents of this city. That means everyone, not just the well off, deserves a piece of the pie.

No neighborhood deserves to be left behind, and when we ensure they are not, we all stand to profit.