When Did Citizens have to be Organized into Groups to Matter?

by Bridgette W.

Our government no longer recognizes the individual citizen. We areall aware of this on some level. We still expect, however, some sort of individual protection against programs or policies that may affect our lives without our knowledge. The truth is, if we aren’t members of a group, we becomesecond class citizens.

An example of thistwo-tiered citizenstatus is evident in how much weight the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) gives to groups of citizens in respect tothe 9% housing tax credit award process. The TDHCA rules for this program simply discriminate against individual citizens who are not part of well-organized, well-documented groups.

This matters because the 9% housing tax credit program is targeting areas that have never been targetedbefore. Historically, low-income HUD programs targeted low-income areas and inner cities. Starting in 2008, HUD changed the targeted areas for their low-income housing programs to higher income areas and suburbs. This is part of a push to regionalism.

In TDHCA’s competitive housing program, developers are scored on certain criteria with a point system: promoting development of high quality housing, serving and supporting Texans most in need, applicant accountability, and promoting community support and engagement. The last criteria area has point sections for local government support, State Representative support, and governmental agency support—none of which are required to tell citizens of applications in their immediate area.

This same section of the application also includes an area for input from community organizations (Quantifiable Community Participation or QCP). To count, citizens must become a QCP. They must organize, create bylaws, create boundary maps, be on record with the state or county, be on record with the TDHCA, and be in the boundary area to be determined for the future development. They must keep this up year after year. Only then will the qualifying neighborhood group be told of a developer application. Only then will their opposition or support count for up to 9 points.

Or, citizens can stay individuals. If they do, they will not be told of a developer’s application at all. Our community found out one was being built across the street from us six months after the developer was given the award. If citizens do find out in time to write letters, non-organized citizen opposition or support will just be “noted.” There are no points at stake when individual citizens participate.

Here are some ways to help:

  • Read my story from the Dallas Morning News
  • Sign my petition on change.org so the TDHCA changes their notification requirements (baby steps)
  • Tell those you know about this program and sign up for TDHCA’s zip code list (because you will never be told any other way)
  • Contact your representatives to tell them that we shouldn’t have to be organized to count
  • Go to TexasLibertyClearinghouse.com to learn more about this story or to tell your story about government run amuck.

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