|Houston Hope Update
Project Houston Hope is a major initiative to improve Houston’s
quality of life announced by Mayor Bill While in his State
of the City address in January.
Part of the Division of Housing and Neighborhoods in the
Mayor’s office, Houston Hope is managed by Steve Tinnermon.
It is the implementation arm of the Land
Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA). The goal of
the project is to turn neglected tax delinquent properties
in targeted neighborhoods into productive properties and to
increase the stock of affordable housing in the process.
Houston Hope’s first RFP to develop affordable housing
on the first 135 lots acquired through LARA was issued in
April.. The Mayor’s goal is to address the most neglected
areas first. Houston Hope neighborhoods include:
|• Acres Homes
• Clinton Park
• Magnolia Park
• and pilot areas in the 3rd and 5th Wards.
How does LARA work?
LARA, a local government organization, is overseen by a 13
member board representing the affected taxing authorities.
Severely tax delinquent vacant properties go through a title
search and then go to foreclosure. Under current enabling
legislation the sale of these properties must be at public
auction. Money derived from the sale is pro-rated to eligible
taxing jurisdictions and the rest of the tax, if any, is forgiven.
LARA holds clear title to the property. The land is “banked”
until developers respond to the RFP. In effect LARA sells
the land to successful developers—both CDCs (Community
Development Corporations) and private developer/home builders—to
build affordable housing. In turn the developer sells to the
homeowner, with restrictive covenants regarding resale.
Challenges in this process are neighborhood transition and
the potential for land speculation. Particularly in regard
to the land speculation issue but also to encourage neighborhood
cohesion, the City is seeking modifications to the enabling
legislation. One change would allow for private sale of the
property at market rate to LARA without the public auction;
all taxing jurisdictions must agree to operate under these
terms for this provision to work. Other proposed changes include
giving the right of first refusal to adjacent land owners
to buy the land and build affordable housing. Another would
give the second right of refusal to CDCs—again, to build
How does Houston Hope work?
Houston Hope takes a comprehensive approach and Tinnermon
serves as the coordinator and orchestrator of cooperative
efforts among a wide variety of entities. The private sector
and CDCs are invited to provide development services and construction;
Public Works provides appropriate supporting infrastructure;
Planning and Development helps to identify strategic areas;
Housing and Community Development supports the buyer with
its down payment assistance and home owner education programs.
The Mayor’s educational consultant engages the involved
school districts and promotes adult education. Tinnermon also
draws in the Super Neighborhood Council, Parks Department,
Health Department, METRO—all aspects of a healthy neighborhood
This comprehensive approach to neighborhood revitalization
is a case study in effective planning—identifying needs
and assembling the resources, both public and private, necessary
to address these needs. Success depends on coordination and
collaboration among City departments, County and school districts,
and private sector service providers. Houston Hope encourages
long term plans for neighborhoods focused on the delivery
of city services and the development of projects that neighborhoods
can deliver on their own. Success in Houston Hope would not
only turn tax delinquent properties into tax producing properties
and add to the stock of affordable housing but also bring
attention to Houston neighborhoods long seeking delivery of
City services. Houston Hope also has the potential to demonstrate
that comprehensive planning with intentional cooperation and
collaboration across jurisdictional lines is a way to improve
the quality of life throughout the City.