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WESLACO, RGV – Ann Williams Cass, executive director of Proyecto Azteca and chair of the RGV Equal Voice Network Housing Group, says a Senate committee wasn’t really looking for solutions for affordable housing.

Last Thursday, May 31, the Pharr Events Center hosted a hearing for the Texas Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations. The charge dealt with housing affordability. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued this charge for the committee to study before the next legislative session starts in January:

Housing Affordability: Examine issues that impact housing affordability, including the effect of local government taxes, fees and mandates. Evaluate the cost of purchasing a single-family residence in different parts of the satte, factoring in the impact of local rules and regulations to identify matters of policy with the greatest influence and identify ways to increase transparency and awareness prior to the adoption of costly local ordinances or orders.

Cass told the Rio Grande Guardian there are a lot of solutions out there, however, she felt the committee wanted to give the public the perception that its members are interested in affordable housing and want to help.

“I think Nick-Mitchell Bennett, [executive director of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville], said ‘I came to you about this when my beard was black, but now it’s white,’” Cass said. “So they’re not moving on it. They’re just fulfilling what they see and that’s to give the public the perception that are interested in affordable housing.”

One thing Cass pointed out was that there were no Rio Grande Valley counties asked to give testimony. She finds this odd because the housing authority of a county deals with issues such as affordable housing.

Cass also felt the organizations who gave testimonies were not focusing on the charge. She told the Rio Grande Guardian the focus of the charge was taxes and codes the cities have that are making the issues of affordable housing more difficult to accomplish.

“I don’t think the cities themselves are willing to talk about either taxes or deed restrictions,” Cass said. “They’re more interested in some of the smaller cities especially in having affordable housing built on properties so they can have more taxes coming into the city.”

She believes poverty is a form of violence and one solution she proposed to the committee was to increase the minimum wage. Cass finds that there are people from the county who join their working groups and some families cannot afford $900/mo. rent.

“I really think affordable housing no matter what economic group you’re in certainly needs to benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. And I don’t think that the committee wanted to talk about that whatsoever,” Cass said.

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