PATRICIA MOORE Left: A typical kitchen at Allen Parkway Village. Right: Appliances destined for other public housing in Houston are stored in a building on the APV site. Tenants were promised improvements that never came. all scheme of depleting occupancy at Allen Parkway Village.” To understand why the Housing Authority was so anxious to sell off APV, one must consider the context of other projects at HACH in the same Chronicle acquired an audit of HACH under the Freedom of Information Act, revealing that “Financial responsibility at the multi-million dollar Housing Authority of the City of Houston became so muddled that employees were learning accounting on the job and auditors were trying to match 100,000 checks with their bank statements while searching for numerous lost records.” The audit showed “that in the three years ending 1981, checks totaling $1.3 million were not recorded on the books while checks totalling $2.5 million were recorded twice,” according to the Chronicle.The authority’s general fund was out of balance by $622,673, according to the audit. Amidst federal cutbacks by the incoming Reagan administration, HACH requested $14 million in 1982 to refurbish several other housing projects, but only received $7 million. With all these budget constraints, as well as a purge of the entire HACH board by incoming Mayor Kathy Whitmire \(after which she installed would have sympathy for HACH not refurbish ing APV. But in fact, in 1979 HUD authorized $10 million to renovate the project. Lenwood Johnson, who has served as president of the Allen Parkway Residents Council since 1983, says that when he moved into APV in 1980, he was told the apartment would soon be renovated, with new appliances, doors, windows and a paint job. As of June, $1.5 million has been spent on “administrative expenses,” architectural drawings that were never used, and cleaning out and boarding up apartments after people moved out. None of it was spent on refurbishing APV. In its second secret proposal in 1981, HACH projected a minimum bid for APV of $72 million, although “the value may be in excess of $250 million.” Clearly HACH hoped tha selling the lucrative land near downtown would bail them out of their fiscal troubles in its other projects. But it’s doubtful that HACH would have been so anxious to sell if there weren’t a waiting market for the property,and luckily for them, some of Houston’s biggest developers were starting to take interest in redeveloping the “blighted” area between 1-45 and River Oaks. Lifestyles of the Rich and Imperial While HACH was trying to get its fiscal house back in order, a group of developers were al ready planning how to “beautify” Buffalo Bayou, preferably by placing one of their own real-estate projects on it. According to a November 1983 Texas Monthly article, in 1979 the Wortham Foundation, the philanthropic arm of American General Corporation, gave the chamber of commerce $500,000 in seed money to study redeveloping the bayou. The chamber hired Rice architecture professor Roy Tapley to work up a master plan for the four miles along the bayou from Shepherd Drive to downtown. In summer 1980, Tapley presented his proposal to the Houston City Council, which approved it unanimously, along with a $1 million allocation for a demonstration project along the bayou between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive. The Wortham Foundation chipped in another $500,000 for the project. Architect S.I. Morris, developer Walter Mischer, and then-First City Bancorporation Chairman James Elkins, Jr., boosted a project called “Fantasy Island” as the first phase of bayou beautification after the demonstration project. The Legislature supplied the project’s financing by creating Tax Increment Finance Districts public funds for the project. TIFDs freeze property-tax revenues to the county and the school district at the appraised value at the time the district is created, and allow the district to keep all of the increase in property taxes resulting from increased development in the area. TIFDs also allowed the city council to use eminent domain to force property owners in the district to sell their land. Unfortunately for Mischer and co., on the same day Texas voters passed the constitutional amendment approving TIFDs, then-Houston Mayor Jim McConn was ousted from office by Kathy Whitmire, who refused to activate a TIFD approved by the lame-duck city council 10 days before her inauguration. Presumably because they backed her opponent, this particular batch of developers, who had been the “golden boys” A housing authority special commission later conceded that, “The steering of Indochinese residents appears to have been an attempt to isolate the project from the Fourth Ward and the larger black Houston community and to defuse the issue as a political concern.” 8 JULY 12, 1991
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.