A Port Arthur developer is proceeding with plans to build a subsidized housing complex for the elderly even though the effort has sparked controversary and ingnited a group of neighbors who would rather not see it built in their backyard.
Port Arthur’s City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday set Jan. 21 for a public hearing to determine whether to support the developer’s application with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for tax credits.
If those credits are approved, the developer will receive about $5 million to put toward the $12 million Edison Square project.
The development is expected to be built on a 15-acre tract at 3501 12th Street, where the old Edison Middle School once stood.
Port Arthur’s Housing Authority and the Itex Group, a Port Arthur development firm, are partnering to build 104 duplex-type units for low income people ages 62 and older.
Plans for the development have changed from the original 128 townhouse-style units to 104 duplexes because a group of neighbors were successful in getting the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to overturn City Council’s decision to allow a zoning change.
That change, from two-family residential to multi-family residential, would have allowed construction of the townhomes if it had not been overturned.
Though the group of neighbors were successful in stopping the zoning change, they have not been successful in derailing the housing project.
The developer is proceeding with plans to build duplexes, which are allowable under the old two-family zoning, Ike Akbari, owner of the Itex Group, said Tuesday at City Council meeting.
Because the cost per unit of building duplexes is higher than the multiple townhouse-style buildings, the project’s cost has increased by $2 million, from the intitial $10 million to $12 million.
And, there will be 24 fewer apartments built, Ikbari said.
To receive housing credits, the city is required to pass a resolution in support of the measure — something that Efrain Avendano hopes the same delegation of neighbors that stopped the previous construction can do again.
“It is the same thing they tried to do,” Avendano said.” All they are changing are duplexes . You can add honey to it, chocolate to it, but its still poison.”
Avendano said he anticipates a large number of people from the neighborhood to attend the Jan. 21 public hearing, where they will appeal to the City Council not to support the tax credits.
“The people spoke once. I think the people will be here for the public hearing and will speak again in opposition, to reach out to Council and hopefully they will listen,” Avendano said.
Whether it is fancy townhouses or duplexes, Avendano said the neighbors did not want government housing in their neighborhood.
“Put it somewhere else,” he said.