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Council conflict on senior rental housing takes center stage

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Flower Mound Town Hall. Photo by Bill Castleman

A discussion of senior rental housing by public speakers and by council members, as an agenda item listed under the Town Manager Report, dominated the conversation during the Jan. 17 Flower Mound Town Council meeting.

The topic was raised initially during the Public Participation section of the council meeting by both Paul Stone and Laura Dillon, speaking as vice president of the Stone Hill Farms HOA, who wanted to address an inaccurate newspaper column written by council member Itamar Gelbman.

Dillon pointed out that: “the housing will not be federally subsidized and that it will be age-restricted.”

In addition, the fact that the development will be Housing Tax Credit (HTC) subsidized under a State of Texas program– not a federally-funded HUD (Housing and Urban Development) program– is omitted in Gelbman’s column.

Gelbman’s submission stated that: “Subsidized housing is coming to Flower Mound in an effort to fulfill the wishes of some Flower Mound Town Council members who want to connect the town to DCTA public transportation.”

First, HTC program subsidies are paid to housing developers who build [construct] apartment communities, not the more-familiar “Section 8” subsidies paid to renters’ landlords in low-income housing; big difference.

In other words, HTC subsidies are for the construction of the building itself, while “Section 8” HUD subsidies are for the people inside the building; an apple versus oranges comparison.

Second, the program is one of the State of Texas primary means of directing private capital (such as banks and insurance and other institutional investors) to invest in the development and preservation of affordable rental housing for low-income households. (https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/multifamily/faqs-htc-basics.htm)

Third, HTC apartment communities for Texas seniors offer an affordable lifestyle for seniors living on fixed-incomes; they are age-restricted. (http://www.elderoptionsoftexas.com/texas-affordable-senior-housing.htm)

Gelbman’s submission—not provided to or published by The Cross Timbers Gazette—as a guest columnist was addressed by council member Don McDaniel later during the meeting.

“I am angry I had to field phone calls from very worried and concerned citizens today and emails over the weekend all on the feeble-minded musings of a member of this council in a local paper,” said McDaniel. “Council member Gelbman is the worst kind of liar. He’s not the kind of liar who can be dismissed as a fool.”

McDaniel then used an example of inferring the council has plans to change the “blue sky to red” to illustrate the type of divisive political strategy he attributed to being used by Gelbman.

“Lies, misdirections, obfuscation, are the first refuge of the emotionally stunted, the weak-minded and the bullies among us, said McDaniel. “Mr. Gelbman is all of those things.”

McDaniel then focused on the submission itself.

“It was not a mistake that Mr. Gelbman left out that we’re looking at affordable senior housing,” he said. “It’s not a mistake that he insinuated that these projects are HUD or ‘Section 8’ housing. It was intentional; meant to scare people, meant to rile people up.”

He encouraged people to question what they read in social media or personal writing; rather than in view of the public.

“They [those authors] hide behind a keyboard to do it [write false or misleading information] quietly so that they don’t have to answer for it,” McDaniel said.

The assertion by Gelbman that providing affordable/low-income senior housing in Flower Mound is: “to fulfill the wishes of some Flower Mound Town Council members who want to connect the town to DCTA public transportation,” is not supported with any factual references and was addressed by council member Bryan Webb.

“[Is the statement] False, yes; blatantly so, yes; [does it] cross the line to a lie, absolutely yes.,” said Webb. “The biggest lie in there [the column] is the lie of omission.”

Gelbman then thanked the council for mentioning his column and said: “everything in it is 100-percent true. It’s not my fault that you don’t understand English or you don’t have terminology.”

He then read the definition of federal government HUD subsidies; an unfortunate public mistake demonstrating a lack of understanding the senior rental housing proposed for Flower Mound.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) administers the HTC program– which is funded by the U.S. Treasury Department, not HUD [the Housing and Urban Development Department]– and is overseen by the Internal Revenue Service.

The upcoming Town Council Work Session on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m., will continue the discussion on affordable/low-income senior rental housing and will include presentations from potential developers of HTC apartment communities for senior rental housing.

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