July 19, 2024

Housing Finance Development

It's Your Housing Finance Development

New group takes aim at affordable housing as Fort Worth’s population soars

A coalition of local nonprofits, foundations and affordable housing developers have created a working group called HOME Fort Worth to formally support the city of Fort Worth’s efforts to increase workforce housing.

The organization will focus on key policy issues, working to secure additional resources to develop housing, and actively partnering with the city of Fort Worth to implement the Neighborhood Conservation Plan and Affordable Housing Strategy that passed the council in October.

“Fort Worth’s housing costs have outpaced the ability of our workforce to find affordable housing,” said Lauren King, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition executive director and HOME Fort Worth convener. “And candidly, we must change the way we perceive those who need affordable housing — it’s your server at your favorite restaurant, the providers who take care of your children.”

The organization is composed of groups working in Fort Worth to develop affordable workforce housing, including Renaissance Heights, Development Corporation of Tarrant County, Community Design Fort Worth, Fort Worth Community Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity, Housing Channel, New Leaf Community Services, Ojala Holdings, Phan Foundation, Rainwater Charitable Foundation, Samaritan House, the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition and the United Way of Tarrant County.

The organization is not just hoping to increase funding for workforce housing, King said.

“We got together and discussed many of these issues and asked the members what they needed to do what they do,” she said. “The developers who were in the room really felt strongly about the fact that significant policy change would make a huge impact on what they could do, and how far they could make their money stretch.”

Before formal organization of the group, the members had already made recommendations to the city of Fort Worth regarding its neighborhood conservation plan and affordable housing strategy. The goal of the organization is to support those recommendations, King said.

“We will have a bigger voice together than if we approached things individually,” she said.

The organization has two immediate priorities.

One: Have fees waived for developers who are doing a majority of their projects with affordable housing components.

“A lot of our nonprofit developers, especially, are paying millions of dollars in fees and waving those fees could really help them produce more housing,” King said. “Time is money, so the longer they’re hung up in a municipal process to get things on the ground, the more money the more their costs go up to build affordable housing.”

Two: Advocate for additional public and private funds dedicated to creating more affordable housing.

“We need to get units on the ground more quickly than in the past,” King said.

HOME Fort Worth will also be out in the community educating groups about the overarching goals of the organization and the Neighborhood Conservation Plan and Affordable Housing Strategy.

“History has taught us there is strength in organization and joining forces for a common goal,” Leah King, United Way of Tarrant County CEO, said in a statement. “Bringing folks together to address housing issues in Fort Worth is the most responsible and right next step in addressing housing challenges in our community.”

High priority/immediate action

1. Establish a land bank.

2. Transfer city-owned vacant parcels to land bank.

3. Offer development bonuses for affordable housing.

4. Expand Neighborhood Empowerment Zone initiatives.

5. Expand city rehabilitation program funding and improvements.

6. Create community land trusts.

7. Follow through with code enforcement at rental properties.

8. Expand permanent supportive housing.

9. Implement a functional zero approach to homelessness.

Medium priority/action in next 18 months

  1. Adopt a neighborhood pattern book of pre-approved designs.
  2. Expand Housing Finance Corp. tools to increase availability of capital.
  3. Provide additional city investment to fund a range of affordable housing development and preservation strategies.
  4. Encourage new private and philanthropic funding entities to finance, develop and acquire housing.

Low priority/18 months+

  1. Form an open space partnership to partner with the city of Fort Worth’s Open Space Conservation Program. 
  2. Encourage accessory dwelling units.
  3. Expand mixed-use zoning to strategically increase residential density.
  4. Support growth of community development corporations.
  5. Property tax assistance for select low-income homeowners.
  6. Provide additional rental subsidies.
  7. Provide proactive support to homeowners at risk of losing their home due to tax delinquency.
  8. Expand the Tarrant County Eviction Diversion program.
  9. Expand the emergency repair program.
  10. Acquire properties at risk of foreclosure or tax lien.
  11.  Acquire FHA loan default properties.

Source: HOME Fort Worth, letter to City Council, October 2023.

The coalition sent council members a letter detailing its short-, medium- and long-term goals and priorities, Lauren King said.

The group has also examined the possibility of supporting the addition of a housing component to the 2026 bond program.

“We have discussed that as a longer-term goal,” King said. “We’re happy to see that Neighborhood Services did submit a proposalto be included in the bond, so we’ll see how that goes.”

Fort Worth continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, recently becoming the 12th largest city in the country. Its job growth outpaces the housing supply, leaving residents vulnerable to a volatile housing market. Homes under $200,000 represented just 12% of the market in 2021 compared with 83% a decade ago, according to a city report.

Workforce housing is generally defined as housing affordable to households earning between 60 and 120% of the area median income, according to the Urban Land Institute.

“As a group, we believe that Fort Worth can be a national leader in public-private-nonprofit partnerships to address workforce housing affordability and so together, we are working toward that goal,” King said.

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at [email protected]. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.