The House Committee on Urban Affairs interim report to the 88th Legislature covers workforce housing, Municipal Management District oversight, municipal water and wastewater, and municipal fees. For more information see the full report here.
Spotlight on Recommendations
Charge 1. Oversight Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 87th Legislature.
- The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs should be directed to conduct a thorough analysis of the program’s problems. It is conceivable that the federal government may implement a similar program in the future should another pandemic, major recession, or other event occur. The department should memorialize the difficulties it faced and the ultimate outcomes so that the lessons learned are not lost to future administrators and legislators.
- The Texas Legislature should continue to monitor the progress if and the demand for the Texas Homeowners Assistance Program. The House Committee on Urban Affairs should request routine updates from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Development throughout the 88th Legislative Session.
Charge 2. Evaluate the availability of workforce housing to support the dynamic economic growth of the state. Study the use of public-private partnerships and other tools to incentivize the development of housing that meets Texas’ expanding workforce demands. Develop and include measures to ensure accountability and transparency associated with these tools.
- The Texas housing market and home prices are influenced by a very complicated mixture of population trends, economic factors, and federal, state, and local government policy. Texas is facing a workforce housing problem that many consider a crisis. The current post pandemic economic volatility only increases the uncertainty in the housing market.
- Because of the complexity of the influencing factors, the housing industry’s importance to the Texas economy, and the employment issues the lack of housing will create for some vital industries, the Legislature should appoint a broad commission of state and local government lawmakers, state and local housing officials and workforce development officials, and leaders of various industries, especially the home building and service industries, to comprehensively assess the regulatory and tax environment that contribute to the increasing gap between housing prices and average wages.
- Texas’ appropriations for affordable housing are insufficient to address the problems of families with incomes below eighty percent of the average median income in their area. The Legislature should consider appropriating additional money to assist families who earn between 60 and 120 percent of AMI, find housing, including utilities, that does not require more than 30 percent of their income. One option the Legislature should consider is establishing a $50 million revolving fund for the construction and rehabilitation of workforce housing, especially if construction worker training can be included.
Charge 3. Review the Municipal Management District Legislative Template with respect to representation and accountability. Make recommendations for improving the template.
- Committees referred legislation creating a new municipal management district should continue to use the existing template to assess legislation and determine when legislation asks for more or less authority than the template lays out. The template and the legislative process currently offer sufficient flexibility and opportunities to influence any statute creating a new municipal management district.
- As the House Committee on Special Districts concluded: While a template is useful for evaluating requested powers it does not mean that every district must conform to the template. While a common baseline is appropriate, each district is unique and meant to serve the needs and desires of the local citizens. Districts will still have the ability to request powers not granted through the template and template language is not meant to preclude districts from having powers necessary to accomplish their goals. Instead, template language is meant to reduce carte blanche grants of authority and provide a clean and efficient 40 form for districts as they first come before the legislature.
- Committees referred legislation modifying a municipal management district created by special law should assess such legislation individually, using the template as a guide but not a requirement.
Charge 4. Study the effects of local governance, planning, and administration on the current state of municipal water and wastewater infrastructure. Examine the measures municipally owned utilities have taken and the costs required to maintain and improve that infrastructure. Make recommendations for cost-effective solutions to ensure reliable infrastructure and uninterrupted municipal utility services, especially during a severe weather event.
- The Legislature should consider measures to help utilities defray the cost of reliability and resiliency improvements.
- The Legislature should require routine reporting by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on the progress water utilities make toward meeting emergency preparedness plans and the costs incurred.
Charge 5. Study municipal fees with respect to the function of the fee and the relationship of the fee to the cost of providing an associated municipal service. Make recommendations to address municipal fees that are disproportionate or unrelated to the cost of providing the associated service.
- The Texas Legislature should continue to monitor local governments’ imposition of regulations and fees, and court cases that interpret the existing parameters for imposing regulations and fees. Should the Legislature find municipal regulation inappropriate, it should act to stop the regulation. When the Legislature believes a fee amount may be excessive, the Legislature should consider capping a fees as it has done in the past.