In a charge that demonstrates the perils of acting even in what is perceived to solve a need, the City of Arlington, Texas has now been sued by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) related to their efforts to build affordable housing targeting a need among elderly residents. There is a bit of legalese involved, but the specifics involve a federal tax credit program to assist with the development of new housing. In 2016, the City of Arlington adopted a policy to determine which projects would be considered for the federal program. As a part of the City’s policy, the legislators wrote that Arlington “has a preference for new development of senior housing or redevelopment of senior and/or workforce housing.”

While the language on its face reads as a “preference” as contrasted with a mandate, HUD asserts City officials made statements illustrating that this “preference” was actually a requirement and that, in fact, the City would only approve a project if it addressed senior housing needs. In its complaint, HUD references comments from city representatives noting that the was no desire for these residents to live near a three year old or an eight year old. After receiving a proposal from a developer to build housing that would welcome families with children, the City rejected it, in favor of construction of senior housing.

According to HUD, this action “blocked the construction of affordable housing that would have been occupied by families with children” – even though there were other senior projects that could still have been approved.

From my seat, it is surprising that the parties could not have threaded the needle here and found a way to use the tax credit program to address affordable housing needs for families as well as seniors. Yes, there was some difficult language from City officials, but there is common ground to be found when talking about building needed housing. To be sure, I bet there will be an amicable resolution here as it only makes good sense.

Just A Thought.