HARLINGEN, RGV – For the past 30 years, the nine-story Baxter Building at the southwest corner of “A” Street and Jackson in downtown Harlingen has been vacant.

A number of recent efforts to restore the 89-year-old concrete block-and-brick building are once again under scrutiny, not only by citizens of Harlingen and downtown business owners, but also the state of Texas and developer MRE Capital/Interstate Holdings of Stillwell, Kansas.

Two weeks ago, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), held its first hearing based on the February application of the developer, most recently assigning rights, as a limited partnership formed in Texas, as Baxter Holding Partners.

In its currently 267-page application, the developer has submitted a form entitled the “Competitive Housing Tax Credit Selection and Self-Score” which ranks the proposed project on a multitude of criteria, in categories including, but not limited to, “Promoting Development of High Quality Housing”, [Criteria] to ‘Serve and Support Texans Most in Need’, and “Criteria Promoting Community Support and Development and Engagement”.

Each line-item under a particular category includes a Point Item Description, which must be approved by the TDHCA Board using guidelines set forth in Section 11.9 (subsequent, relevant paragraphs) 2016 Qualified Allocation Plan or “QAP”.

As far as the TDHCA is concerned, a major point of contention is the Point Item Description of “5” requested under the Educational Excellence line item.

Harlingen High School, which falls within the requisite one-mile radius of the development, was not disclosed in the pre-application, but it also has both a failing score of 59, (instead of the required minimum score of 70), as well as an “IR”, Improvement Required, ranking. Both ratings are issued by the Texas Education Agency, (TEA) and are the most current.

The applicant sought to substitute Early College High School, (two-and-a-half miles from the proposed site), which does have a satisfactory rating with the TEA.

This matter has been tabled for two weeks while the TDHCA Board waits for official documentation and response from Arturo Cavazos, the Superintendent of Schools at Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District.

The TDHCA Board specifically addressed their concerns with “such college preparatory high schools or those that offer specialized courses or curricula”.

In a statement released today, the TDHCA said:

“In a situation in which the local high school fails to meet state standards, does a student living in a given affordable rental development have the right to attend a magnet school, as opposed to the mere possibility of attending the school? Generally speaking, when such a school reaches capacity, students seeking to enroll do not have a right to attend, but they always have a right to attend the school for their primary attendance zone.

“If the school in question is not the school in whose primary attendance zone the development site is located, will there be transportation available to the student at no cost to the family? Districts do not always have the resources to provide no-cost transportation to such schools.”

The statewide process for tax credits granted by the TDHCA is so highly competitive between proposed developments that one or two points can mean the difference whether these credits are actually awarded and the developments proceed.

The public comment period for the 2016 Competitive Housing Tax Credit Applications Baxter Lofts, TDHCA #16029 ends at 12:00 am Austin local time on Sunday, June 12, 2016.

Written comments may be submitted, in hard copy/fax or electronic formats to:

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
Attn: Multifamily Housing Division
P.O. Box 13941
Austin, Texas 78711-3941
Fax: 512-512-475-3941
Email: [email protected]

The next TDHCA Board meeting, set for Thursday, June 16, 2016, at 10:00 AM will be streamed live on the Texas House of Representative media page: http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/