Hi 81 / Lo 73
|Volume 70, Issue 77,
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
City plan could help preserve communities
A plan unveiled in Mayor Bill White's State of the City address on Monday calls for a broadly based initiative to subsidize new housing and restore poor neighborhoods, in hopes to at once protect property from gentrification and reduce crime.
The plan is the first of its kind for Houston, which will foreclose on 1,500 properties in the coming months to clear the way for a massive project to build thousands of homes for low-income families. The city hopes to be eligible for millions of dollars in local, state and federal grants over several years to help fund the plan.
Some of the areas targeted by the mayor's plan are a stone's throw from UH. City officials too easily ignore these neighborhoods, often regarded as eyesores by outsiders who would hate to get lost inside. But ignoring them for too long, as White pointed out in a press conference Monday, only allows crime to fester, further destroying these endangered communities.
Meanwhile, these often tightly-knit neighborhoods lack the economic stakes to ignore real estate-hungry businesses; those who make a stand do so for the virtue of the community and its history. But sometimes a fat check is too hard to pass up, especially in extremely low-income areas.
This plan may help these communities better ward off crime and withhold against business interests. If it does, it will be a historic success for the mayor, who told the Houston Chronicle in a press conference that this effort will consume most of his time this year.
More importantly, the initiative draws a great deal of attention to these seemingly forgotten corners of the city -- attention that could be converted into support and resources to keep the effort going beyond the city's plans.
Up until Monday, Houston never had a long-term plan to address these problems, instead handling individual situations as neighborhoods mobilized and complained. Now, it looks like the city is on the right track to take care of some of its oldest and most vulnerable communities.
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