Say no to affordable housing plan

Published 10:34 am Monday, February 22, 2016

The citizens of Port Arthur should reject the idea that our Economic Development Corporation should get into the affordable housing business. Housing does not create economic development. It just doesn’t.

Some will say, we need more people to live near downtown. They will say “build it and they will come”. Well, that line was from a great movie, but it was only a movie, a movie classified as a fantasy and created on a Hollywood lot with actors playing scripted parts with a guaranteed ending. This is real life, there are no guarantees.

You may also recall the main character, played by Kevin Costner, bet his own farm on his dream – not his neighbor’s hard-earned tax dollars. We citizens already have several tax dollar supported governmental entities who serve Port Arthur’s affordable housings needs — currently to the tune of almost 3,000 units built, and with many more presently under construction.

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The Port Arthur Housing Authority alone has an annual operating budget of $27 million and a developmental budget of $39 million dedicated specifically toward affordable housing. Why then should we add another layer of inexperienced bureaucracy for housing? And especially one with no prior feasibility study or supporting information? Private investors and banks would never conceive of such a foolish  move with their own money.

So again, why then would this project suddenly make sense to do with our hard-earned tax dollars?  20 years ago, when the citizens of Port Arthur agreed to an additional local tax on themselves, they had conditions. First and foremost of those conditions was that this new tax would not become a piggy bank for some local hot shots pet projects. We have had plenty of those in the past. None of them worked very well. Most didn’t work at all.

This is, and should be, about true economic development. 4A defines that as supporting manufacturing growth, helping industrial development, providing infrastructure improvements that promote expanded business enterprises, and port-related facilities. These tools are how true economic development is defined and accomplished. The PAEDC has been a great success story for our city, let’s not sully that good reputation by going off script at this late date. I encourage all citizens to vote no on any EDC funded affordable housing plan.

Stuart Salter

Port Arthur