Community Development,
Housing and Infrastructure

The Issues:

The extreme concentration of poverty in Sunnyside is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Throughout Houston's history, government has acted to deny housing opportunities to poor people of color in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods while deliberately concentrating poverty housing in low income, predominantly African-American areas like Sunnyside. 

 

  • Since 1990, Sunnyside's rate of homeownership has declined by 12 percent while multifamily rental units have increased by 47 percent.

  • This drastic transformation of the neighborhood is almost exclusively due to government-subsidized housing. There are now nine multifamily developments in Sunnyside funded through Low Income Housing Tax Credits and project-based vouchers, containing 2,219 total units.

  • The nine developments represent almost half of the neighborhood's renter-occupied housing and over 72 percent of Sunnyside's housing that is not single-family detached – by far the highest ratios of subsidized housing in any Houston neighborhood.

 

While low income rental housing is not inherently bad for neighborhoods, increased concentration of poverty coupled with a decline in homeownership exacerbates problems around crime, education and housing. And because the residents subsidized housing are mostly people of color, concentrating so many developments in a majority non-white areas perpetuates racial segregation. Yet recently, local officials have called for even more subsidized housing in Sunnyside.

 

Unsafe housing is also a significant concern. Many properties have become hazardous due to absentee landlords, inadequate code enforcement and insufficient housing repair programs. In 2015 alone, Sunnyside had 219 reported code violations for dangerous buildings and 194 instances of properties failing to meet minimum standards.

 

During the redlining era, Sunnyside was developed as a subdivision outside of city limits, lacking drainage, sidewalks, streetlights and other basic infrastructure. But when the City of Houston annexed Sunnyside, those services were not adequately provided and have still not been. The neighborhood still lacks necessary infrastructure for sidewalks, streets, drainage and more.

 

Sidewalks are largely nonexistent in Sunnyside, despite a significant share of the population that are without cars, elderly, people with disabilities and school children. The neighborhood relies almost exclusively on an outdated open-ditch drainage system that causes excessive flooding during heavy rain events.

 

Yet affluent areas such as "The Arrow," the predominantly white part of west Houston identified as the city's strongest market, receive a disproportionate amount of public funding for infrastructure while low income communities of color like Sunnyside remain ignored. Even though Sunnyside's needs are much greater, and its issues are a direct result of public disinvestment and discriminaton, the neighborhood receives far less infrastructure funding than "The Arrow" and far more subsidized housing. The city’s denial of “the good stuff” to Sunnyside intensifies the problems of poverty.

Sunnyside's Vision: Sunnyside will have quality housing that is inclusive, diverse and affordable to persons of all income levels. Infrastructure will meet residents’ needs and be prioritized in a way to support and encourage public and private partnerships. Community vision and community-led initiatives will direct the redevelopment of Sunnyside through an effective and democratically accountable community development corporation working in conjunction with the city of Houston. Local residents, businesses, and political officials will build strong partnerships to gather the resources needed to tackle Sunnyside’s key issues. The city of Houston starts by supporting the citizen-led neighborhood planning effort in providing funding and policy direction to implement the community’s plan.

 

Goals: 
1. Adopt and implement Sunnyside’s community master plan
2. Increase and preserve homeownership
3. Improve existing multifamily rental housing, reduce the overconcentration of government-subsidized apartments

4. Provide quality public services

5. Support and enhance community development and economic development

Action Plan


How can the City of Houston, the Houston Housing Authority, civic associations, businesses, churches, residents and others help achieve Sunnyside's goals?

 

  • Support Sunnyside’s citizen-directed neighborhood planning processes.

  • Instruct City departments to identify, support and coordinate with a world-class community development corporation (CDC) to work with private foundations and federal agencies to revitalize public infrastructure, secure private capital investments and repair substandard housing in the Sunnyside neighborhoods.

  • Direct city departments (especially the planning, housing, and neighborhoods departments) to establish a process that engages citizens in dialogue with developers so that when developers seek city funds for projects within their neighborhoods, neighborhood leaders can negotiate appropriate Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) with the developers.

  • Establish a homeowner and renter stabilization project for elderly and residents with disabilities.

  • Undertake a research and public education campaign to raise residents’ awareness to their right to protest their appraisal value.

  • Establish a Homestead Preservation District.

  • Consider establishing a community land trust to make homes affordable to existing low-income renters who would like to own.

  • Establish a self-help, owner-builder housing initiative.

  • Support community-based real estate services to make buying and selling homes and other real estate easier.

  • Negotiate a community reinvestment agreement with Houston banks to facilitate home repair and home purchase loans.

  • Enact a Doors and Window Ordinance.

  • Expand Prohibited Purchasers at Tax Sales to code violators.

  • Provide assistance for housing rehabilitation.

  • Form a partnership with and build capacity of area CDCs.

  • Address the substandard conditions in some multifamily housing developments through a coordinated plan of code enforcement, selective demolition and support for new mixed income housing opportunities in higher opportunity areas.

  • Attract middle income renters to Sunnyside.

  • Expand the opportunity of Houston Housing Authority’s Section 8 housing choice voucher holders to use their housing vouchers throughout the city.

  • Provide opportunities for renters to purchase and repair their home if abandoned by landlords.

  • Develop a citywide plan to provide affordable housing opportunities for persons returning to the community from the criminal justice system.

  • Place full inventories and condition assessments of all public infrastructure on a citizen-friendly online GIS server.

  • Reform Rebuild Houston to improve accountability and equity in infrastructure spending.

  • Complete the network of sidewalks within the community.

  • Provide a modern, properly engineered stormwater drainage system.

  • Sponsor a national conference in Sunnyside bringing together CDCs.

  • Inventory, license and monitor hazardous incompatible land uses.

  • Reform the City’s Section 3 jobs program so that produce real jobs for people with lower incomes.

  • Develop a master planned commercial site on large city-owned land parcels.

  • Encourage community-serving economic development opportunities.

  • Support and encourage social entrepreneurship in Sunnyside.