Other areas. Labor will oppose any attempt to cut back unemployment compensation, which helps thousands of workers caught in layoffs and plant closings. Moreover, these benefits should be extended in some cases to workers on strike. We support public ethics legislation that ensures less influence by bigmoney lobbies, and increased salaries for state legislators. And we will work to ensure the protection of the “Buy American” preference in all purchases with public monies. CHRISTOPHER COOK Christopher Cook is director of communications for the Texas AFL-CIO. DANNA BYROM Jame Briesemeister Give Texans an Opportunity for Affordable Housing Texas has not met its citizens’ need for affordable housing. The state’s main housing has failed in its mission to provide safe, decent, and affordable housing for persons and families of low income. Housing advocates find the agency to be an ineffective bureaucracy, which has not been responsive to community providers of affordable housing. The Legislature has taken the first step toward increasing the supply of affordable housing in our state. The Sunset Advisory Commission has recommended merging THA with the Texas Department of Commuwith providing financing for homes for lowand moderate-income citizens, TDCA has responsibility for some housing programs, including those for the homeless. The new Department of Housing and Community Affairs would have a clear mission to provide affordable housing in Texas. THA has discriminated against the poor, minorities, and persons in rural areas of the state. The Commission was presented with convincing evidence of THA’s dismal performance by Dr. Robert Wilson, a faculty member at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Wilson analyzed all loans for single-family property made by THA. He found that only 10 percent of THA’s loans for single-family homes went to families who could be considered low income \(incomes of 80 percent other words, those families who are least likely to find decent, safe, affordable housing and most at risk of becoming homeless have not been served by THA. Nearly 75 percent of THA’s loans for single family homes went to families of moderate income and greater. THA has also made nearly 80 percent of its loans for single family homes to whites, although minorities make up a significant portion of the low-income population in Texas. The sunset review of THA offers an opportunity to implement reforms in THA’s structure and programs that will increase the supply of affordable housing in Texas. Housing advocates and consumer organizations are heartened by the Sunset Commission’s recommendations, but there is much more to be done. We will work to structure a housing agency that works for moderate-income, low-income, and homeless families of all colors in all parts of the state. Make the housing policy board representative of the state’s citizens. The majority of the current THA boardmembers are representatives of the lending and building industries; TDCA’s board is advisory only. Under the sunset proposal, the committee with the power to set policy and issue bonds would be appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the governor, with no legislative mandate as to the representation of the general public. Sadly, that is a step backward from the current THA board which at least has one public member. The majority of the new policymaking board should include representation from nonprofit providers and developers, the low-income community, and communitybased housing organizations. Expand eligible Trust Fund programs. The Sunset Commission has proposed creation of a limited purpose Housing Trust Fund, which would be funded through THA’s could be used to finance pre-development costs, energy conservation improvements, and other programs. The fund could also make money available to implement provisions of the Fair Housing Act by making money available to adapt or construct housing which 74 1 j i 111 I I I le X A 1 1 Available at the following locations: Old World Bakery 814 W. 12th Street Austin The Stoneleigh P 2926 Maple Avenue Dallas Brazos Bookstore 2314 Bissonett Houston Guy’s News Stand 3700 Main Street Houston The Newstand 1101 University Lubbock Daily News & Tobacco 309-A Andrews Highway Midland Books and News 301 State Line Ave. Texarkana The Original Magazine & Bookstore 5360 W. Lovers Lane #210 Dallas is accessible to the elderly and disabled. A more flexible fund will enable Texas to leverage millions of federal housing dollars that are available under the new HOME program by creating a mechanism to provide the required state matching funds. Texas has made little progress in helping its poorest citizens those most at risk of becoming homeless meet one of their most basic needs. The taxpayers of this state should no longer tolerate the squandering of public resources for the gain of the banks and building industry. Although the Sunset Commission has taken a first step toward housing reform, it does not go far enough. The Legislature must create a housing agency with a board that is responsive to the low-income community, and expand the Trust Fund to ensure that Texas maximizes the funds available for affordable housing. JANEE BRIESEMEISTER THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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