A Texas developer says he's been part of affordable housing projects around the country. But he's never seen a climate like Gulfport. City council members turned down Real Tex's appeal of the planning commission's decision to deny a use permit to begin the project.
Real Tex wants to build a 96 unit, multi-family development on a little less than six acres of land. The site is north of Pass Road, West of Eighth Avenue.
There's a reason there are few houses left on Johnson Drive, it's prone to flooding. Four of seven Gulfport city council members say it's a bad idea for an adjacent property to be the site for an affordable housing development where dozens of family would be at risk for flooding.
"Just north of that area was the Bayou View west buyout," said Ward 3's Ella Holmes-Hines. "$18 million of federal dollars went into that and we have citizens that are very adjacent to the area who are looking for phase two."
RealTex officials say the use permit denial was premature.
President Rick Deyoe says said, "Gulfport is a different climate from any other city I've ever dealt with. They've come up with every excuse possible to oppose a project. What should have been a rubber stamp approval for use, became an issue as soon as the planning commission found out it was affordable housing."
RealTex officials expressed concern that incentives for affordable housing in Gulfport are being shot down.
RealTex representative Craig Carney told the council, "So far as I know there isn't one tax credit development property that has come out of the ground in this city. That is a problem to the city. It's a problem with the federal government both with fair housing and a problem with the community development block grant. It's getting almost two years out and the folks at HUD are looking over our shoulder."
Council members say the decision wasn't a vote against affordable housing nor was it nothing personal.
Holmes Hines said, "RealTex appears to be one of the top of the line and that's fine based on the pictures that I've seen but this is the wrong location for this project. "
Holmes-Hines says she doesn't want people to wonder years from now why a past council allowed construction in a flood prone area, because she wondered the same thing as the city was going through the buyout process.
RealTex officials say they've already found solutions for the drainage issues and aren't giving up on the project. The company is working on two other developments in Gulfport which also still need approval.