PHARR, RGV – The Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations is holding a hearing in the Rio Grande Valley today to consider state policy on affordable housing.

The committee is chaired by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville. The hearing takes place at the Pharr Events Center, starting at 9 a.m.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.

“We are going to look at housing and taxation and how that affects the housing industry,” Lucio told the Rio Grande Guardian, at a reception for the committee, held at the DoubleTree Suites in McAllen. The reception was hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

“There are certain things I want to look at, such as the methods of financing for affordable housing because there is so much need. In a fast-growing community like the Valley, we need to come up with some answers at the state level. My intention is to have an interim report that offers some recommendations that are doable and that will get the support of both sides of the aisle. The end result being hundreds of thousands of new homes being built throughout the South Texas area.”

Asked if he had asked Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to include affordable housing as an interim charge for his committee, Lucio answered affirmatively.

“Yes, housing is a passion of mine. Being one of ten kids and remembering how we struggled to find a home to live in. The home is what keeps families together. It is the foundation of a family. It is most important to have a dwelling one can count, not only for a child but a mom and dad. Health and education also comes in to the mix. I lived in government housing and we were very thankful but we knew their were people that, even though we were poor, they were poorer. So, my Dad did not want to live there very long and he kept on looking and we moved out in a short period of time. That was the right thing to do – always making room for the less fortunate. Housing has always been a passion of mine.”

The interim charge the committee hearing will consider is:

“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 state, 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.”

Lucio added: “I have had an opportunity to work with people who truly care. Some of the senators that are here today, I have known for a number of years. They are issue-oriented and they want to be see some solutions also. It is not just the Valley, it is everywhere in Texas, where we need more affordable housing.”

In his remarks at the reception, state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said:

“I am in the housing business so I have a little bit of familiarity with some of the things we are going to be talking about tomorrow. I want to make sure that if there is a role for government, that it is a proper role and it does not overplay its hand to create too many burdens and regulations on keeping housing affordable. There is nothing more important than than people having affordable housing. There are some statistics we are going to hear tomorrow, not exactly, so don’t quote me, every time a house goes up a $1,000, 20,000 people are shut out of the market for that house. So, we need to be careful that the government regulations and zoning codes and building codes are not pricing too many people out of the market.”

Huffines is a member of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations Committee. So is state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston.

“A house represents a family having achieved the American Dream. Having a roof over their head, having a place they cancel their own. I am glad that we are going to really focus on that tomorrow,” Garcia said.

State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, is also a member of the committee. Melendez was born in San Juan.

“Not only is it (owning a home) the American Dream, other than having something to eat, having a safe place to put your head down at night has got to be one of the most critical things you can think of,” Melendez said.

“Most for us do not worry about it for ourselves but those of us who have the privilege of being parents, it is one of the things we worry about for our children. Homelessness is no long just the Vietnam vet. It is women fleeing from domestic violence with their children. That is the real face of homelessness. So, anything we can do to increase quality affordable housing is something we should be looking at, using every single tool in the toolbox. Sometimes those can be controversial. I look forward to the hearing and I look forward to helping address the need for more affordable housing.”