Community fights to keep Concord Homes
In a last-minute plea for consideration, Beaumont Housing Authority supporters petitioned fair housing advocates to reconsider their opposition to Beaumont being awarded $12 million in Hurricane Ike Round 2.2 funds to replace dilapidated and storm-ravaged housing units in the city’s north end. The advocates declared their position in a letter earlier this summer stating that BHA’s plans did not “affirmatively further fair housing,” a term BHA executive director Robert Reyna calls indefinable. Advocates for BHA have since penned their own letter in support of the efforts of the local housing authority. Among BHA supporters were federal and state elected leaders, the leader of the local NAACP, city of Beaumont leaders, and private stakeholders.
Congressman Randy Weber stated, “I strongly approve of this project and ask that the … denial be reversed.” Weber’s assertion is that the Concord Homes development, which is being objected to by the fair housing advocates and held up by the funding source, the General Land Office, is a much-needed project for the city of Beaumont and for the residents of the Beaumont Housing Authority. The opposing advocates objected to the project based on census data that shows the development would take place in a “minority impacted” area, already heavily saturated with public housing.
“The project is in the best interest of the community and all of Southeast Texas,” Weber continued. “(BHA Executive Director) Robert Reyna and his staff at the Beaumont Housing Authority have done nothing short of extraordinary work in their previous projects, and I have no doubt the Concord Homes will continue with their standard of excellence.”
State Sen. Tommy Williams likewise authored a letter to “express … support to approve funding for reconstruction of Concord Homes for the Beaumont Housing Authority.”
“Rebuilding Concord Homes will contribute to the efforts made by the Beaumont Housing Authority with its $53 million investment and reconstruction through the HOPE VI program,” he said, adding that additional projects by the city of Beaumont and Drainage District 6 are improving the infrastructure in the targeted neighborhood.
Jefferson County Tax Assessor Shane Howard also supports the Concord Homes initiative.
“Rebuilding Concord Homes provides a sustainable source of housing for more than just the current population housed there and can serve as a perpetual source of housing for others through the years to come,” he said. “Additionally, the vast majority of residents in Concord Homes come from the surrounding neighborhoods and wish to remain in their neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are comfortable with the development there and frankly, given the way BHA manages its business, such a development serves as economic development for the neighborhood. We have seen this proven out in our projects at Regent I and II as well as Magnolia.
“Housing advocates explicitly stated their desire for the BHA to take on MORE debt while accomplishing only short-term housing solutions. ... This shocking mindset coupled with their paternalistic condescension to leaders from the very communities they claim to represent demonstrates that the advocates are severely out of touch with good policy, sound economic stewardship, and positive community building.”
Beaumont City Councilman Audwin Samuel also used strong words to show his support of BHA.
“It is with strong feelings that I write this letter supporting the Beaumont Housing Authority’s plans to reconstruct Concord Homes,” he said. “As a city councilmember representing the district in which Concord Homes exist, I am very pleased with BHA’ s support with our city’s effort to revitalizing that area of my ward. I continually meet with the neighborhood association in the community working tirelessly to prevent the death of that community. As a stakeholder, councilmember, and life-long resident of the area immediately around Concord Homes, I believe BHA’s proposed plan is essential to the continued growth and development of not only the immediate area but also the North End District of Beaumont and the entire city.”
By no means all-inclusive of the support letters sent on behalf of BHA, additional support was added by BHA residents and board members, as well as local ministers and civic leaders.
BHA executive director Reyna said he was glad to see the community support its housing authority, and it is his hope the GLO and fair housing advocates will take notice.
“All we can do is wait and see what happens,” he said.
According to statements made to Reyna, the GLO is willing to reconsider their prior determination, but the final decision will be left to the HUD Fair Housing Division, which has been out of the office since the government shutdown.