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KHOU ran a bigl article today on the gang-wars that are gripping Gulfton.

As an architect, Gulfton has always fascinated me. Gulfton abuts some of the most desirable parts of our metropolis - Uptown; Bellaire; West U - but it is referred to as the "Gulfton Ghetto." Crime rates are much higher than the norm. Poverty abounds.

This post will be unlike my previous post about the Sharpstown Mall. That was more about architecture and design. This is more about urban policy and tactics that could be used to turn Gulfton around.

First we need to understand why Gulfton is a ghetto. Common wisdom is that the reason is apartments. It's not that apartments are bad. It's not that renters are bad. The problem in Gulfton is that the apartments there are basically all wrong.

- Gulfton's apartment complexes are too big. 200 units seems to be the limit for a good, older complex. Many of Gulfton's complexes have ten times that many.

- There's not much diversity in Gulfton's real estate. There are no offices or employment centers in Gulfton.

- Gulfton was developed very fast in the 1970s, infrastructure never caught up.

- Gulfton was overbuilt with apartments in the 1970s, and has never recovered from the ensuing collapse of the 1980s.

So what can we do now?

1: First we need to go apartment by apartment and make an honest evaluation of the properties. Complexes should be ranked based on crime rates, number of code violations, and anonymous tenant surveys.

2: The lowest ranked apartments (maybe 10% of the total units in Gulfton) should be demolished, and replaced with non-apartment development. (Retail, offices, schools, libraries, etc.)

3: The next lowest ranked apartments (the next 15%) should be gutted and renovated into new apartments.

4: HPD needs to swarm Gulfton while all of this is happening. While the worst 10% of apartments in Gulfton are demolished, the 10% of Gulfton residents that are serious criminals should be rounded up and jailed.

There is money to do this - but it needs to be re-directed from other functions. The City of Houston actively works with developers and State and Federal funding sources to improve apartments. Those efforts could be concentrated in Gulfton. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs sits on huge coffers of money. If they stopped building new apartments in Houston, and started using funds to repair apartments it would go a very long way in Gulfton.

I've started to believe that Gulfton will be a measure of Houston's next mayor. If his or her urban and police policies are good - Gulfton will turn. If they are a failure, Gulfton will continue to languish. These are only one architect's ideas of how to fix the "Gulfton Ghetto."

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They need to set up an ICE office on Gulfton. I would be willing to bet over 50% of the area's occupants are illegals. 

The city needs to go after slumlords. Of course I've been saying that for 30 years and it hasn't happend and probably never will. 

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First we need to understand why Gulfton is a ghetto. Common wisdom is that the reason is apartments. It's not that apartments are bad. It's not that renters are bad. The problem in Gulfton is that the apartments there are basically all wrong.

- Gulfton's apartment complexes are too big. 200 units seems to be the limit for a good, older complex. Many of Gulfton's complexes have ten times that many.

- There's not much diversity in Gulfton's real estate. There are no offices or employment centers in Gulfton.

- Gulfton was developed very fast in the 1970s, infrastructure never caught up.

- Gulfton was overbuilt with apartments in the 1970s, and has never recovered from the ensuing collapse of the 1980s.

There aren't any apartment complexes in Gulfton with over 2,000 units. The average size of apartment complexes in the Gulfton submarket is 279 units. Out of 64 complexes, only three have even half of "ten times that many".

There are numerous large retail centers, at least one large office building owned by Exxon that is on Fournace Pl, and there are numerous office and warehouse facilities along the major thoroughfares and freeways. There are also some medical jobs embedded in there. These mostly are not high-end employers, but most people living in Gulfton don't work at such firms (even though large concentrations of them are very close by anyway, easily accessible with or without a car). The fact is that based on income and skills, the jobs available in Gulfton are pretty well matched up to the population.

What kind of infrastructure is insufficient? And how is it a unique case from the rest of Houston?

So what can we do now?

1: First we need to go apartment by apartment and make an honest evaluation of the properties. Complexes should be ranked based on crime rates, number of code violations, and anonymous tenant surveys.

2: The lowest ranked apartments (maybe 10% of the total units in Gulfton) should be demolished, and replaced with non-apartment development. (Retail, offices, schools, libraries, etc.)

3: The next lowest ranked apartments (the next 15%) should be gutted and renovated into new apartments.

4: HPD needs to swarm Gulfton while all of this is happening. While the worst 10% of apartments in Gulfton are demolished, the 10% of Gulfton residents that are serious criminals should be rounded up and jailed.

There is money to do this - but it needs to be re-directed from other functions. The City of Houston actively works with developers and State and Federal funding sources to improve apartments. Those efforts could be concentrated in Gulfton. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs sits on huge coffers of money. If they stopped building new apartments in Houston, and started using funds to repair apartments it would go a very long way in Gulfton.

I've started to believe that Gulfton will be a measure of Houston's next mayor. If his or her urban and police policies are good - Gulfton will turn. If they are a failure, Gulfton will continue to languish. These are only one architect's ideas of how to fix the "Gulfton Ghetto."

The Tax Credit program as it is already set up allows the funds to be granted for renovation of existing properties. Concentrating those efforts in Gulfton. Among those that have already tapped the Tax Credit program are St. Cloud and Fountain Oaks.

Concentrating efforts within Gulfton would create problems, however.

Firstly, there are only a limited amounts of funding available, and the Tax Credit program is based on a competitive system; if funds are going to be disproportionately directed to a particular geographic area, that's taking them away from other areas. What is the justification? Why not Broadway? Why not Fondren/Southwest? Why not Antoine? Alternatively, why is your proposal not city-wide in scope? Why not state-wide? Nation-wide? Global?

Secondly, why is it necessary or desirable to demolish functional apartment units that are so well-located relative to employment centers? It would seem to go counter to the whole concept of affordable housing. Don't get me wrong, I'm completely on board for demanding that apartment complexes within (the entire) City of Houston be up to code, and to the extent that there are problem situations, the landlord needs to be prosecuted. But that's much more of a management problem than anything else. Even a badly damaged complex can be made functional again at a cost that is below replacement cost. And by functional, I don't mean that it is by any means luxurious, clean, well-manicured, landscaped, or pleasant to live in. I'm only talking about a complex that is not itself harmful to its occupants.

I especially dislike the suggestion that apartment complexes be demolished and replaced with schools. If you decrease the neighborhood population, school enrollment will also decrease, eliminating the justification for new capacity.

The bottom line is this: you can't fix crime or poverty by demolishing or renovating apartment complexes. Dumbassery is an incurable element of the human condition. And while there are political mechanisms to clean up a particular neighborhood, that's a treatment for the symptom rather the cause. There are plenty of common sense strategies that ought to be employed, but not in such a way as are limited to one ghetto (of many).

----------

As for your suggestions to law enforcement tactics...well I'm going to let Red pick that apart.

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Most of the residents are relatively newly arrived immigrants. Unfortunately, as crappy as the Gulfton area is, it is a step up from where many of these folks came from. If you are in their shoes you tend to migrate to a place where there are others that you know and can relate to. Plus it is very cheap. I think that the only way Gulfton or any ghetto can be cleaned up is to first, get those folks mixed into the community as a whole.

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I especially dislike the suggestion that apartment complexes be demolished and replaced with schools. If you decrease the neighborhood population, school enrollment will also decrease, eliminating the justification for new capacity.

As a note, this is exactly what happened in Vickery Meadow, the Dallas version of Gulfton. A few complexes had been bulldozed to make way for schools.

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As a note, this is exactly what happened in Vickery Meadow, the Dallas version of Gulfton. A few complexes had been bulldozed to make way for schools.

So, how did that work out for Dallas? Did the area improve?

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So, how did that work out for Dallas? Did the area improve?

Dallas has led the nation in terms of apartment demolition activity for the last several years. There was so much demolition, in fact, that the displaced households buoyed overall apartment occupancy, making the regional market data seem to reflect a somewhat stronger local economy than was actually the case. The whole swath of apartments on both sides of the Presbyterian Hospital complex has witnessed a disproportionate impact from this trend, but what I'm getting at is that this was not an isolated case. The City of Dallas is very friendly to any project that will displace poor people, particularly from north Dallas. I don't think that it's kosher for Houstonians to point that out...but I do anyway.

One investment group was so optimistic (at least about the portion north of the hospital and closer to the light rail) that they accumulated a huge swath of apartment complexes and tore them all down in anticipation of flipping a blank canvas to developers, who were supposed to be chomping at the bit for something so well-located. At about that time, the capital markets froze up. Us developers took a test bite, liked the taste, but couldn't afford it. The demolition activity was entirely predicated on a land pricing paradigm that no longer applies.

I don't know what the before or after picture looks like with the schools, but it would strike me as odd if DISD intentionally knocked down apartment complexes and built new schools without eliminating capacity elsewhere. HISD's circumstances probably differ.

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If someone were to get in there and be able to displace all of the residents and eliminate the apartment complexes, the land itself would seem to be pretty valuable given the location between Bellaire and the Galleria.

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4: HPD needs to swarm Gulfton while all of this is happening. While the worst 10% of apartments in Gulfton are demolished, the 10% of Gulfton residents that are serious criminals should be rounded up and jailed.

As for your suggestions to law enforcement tactics...well I'm going to let Red pick that apart.

The first sentence already occurs, so not much tearing apart to do, except to point out that an HPD sergeant that I know who is part of the 'hot spot' squad that swarms areas with high crime told me that there were so many cops out in Gulfton that they were running into each other. He told me this anecdote about a year and a half ago, so I do not know if they are still there. From time to time I read about them in other parts of town. They are deployed in conjunction with HPD's computer analysis of crime trends.

I have no idea what the last sentence means. EVERY person who is arrested for a crime is prosecuted, not just the 'serious criminals'. If your suggestion is that those with a long rap sheet should be arrested without having committed a crime first, but merely because they have a criminal record, I would question why you even live in the US. There are numerous countries that have the draconian laws that you espouse. It would be much easier for you to move to one of them than for us to get rid of the US and Texas Constitutions and institute a crime of being a 'person of poor character'. If your suggestion is more along the lines of setting higher bonds and bigger sentences to those who commit crimes in Gulfton than elsewhere, that is much easier said than done. However, there is no reason that the DA's office could not assign a task force to creating a coordinated prosecution of Gulfton's most wanted, though I would submit that they have too many task forces already. And there are many policies in place to handle 'revolving door' criminals, such as no bond for a person who commits a new felony while on bond for another felony. That is already done countywide.

Much of the Gulfton apartment problem comes from the design of the apartments, allowing crime to occur in the courtyards, out of sight of the police. It is very labor intensive to inspect each of these courtyards, and drug dealers not being as stupid as one might think, post sentries at the gates to warn of approaching officers. Perhaps, rather than spend tax money to fix all of these problems, we should fine the architects who designed these crime traps for engaging in negligent design. That way, we could force architects to consider the societal costs of their ill-thought out designs. The fines collected could go toward salaries for the extra police required to patrol poorly designed apartments, and for razing of bad apartments and building of schools in their place.

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I don't know what the before or after picture looks like with the schools, but it would strike me as odd if DISD intentionally knocked down apartment complexes and built new schools without eliminating capacity elsewhere. HISD's circumstances probably differ.

The Villas at Vickery, the complex that was torn down to make way for an elementary school and a middle school, had 900 apartment units and commercial properties. In 2004 the owners of the stores said that the landlord cheated them out of rent that they had paid that they were unable to use: http://www.dallasobserver.com/2004-05-13/news/tossed-out/

I do not believe that DISD closed any schools in North Dallas during the years of 2004 and 2005.

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+1 The cloistered courtyard is the problem.

These complexes were designed for young professionals in the boom years who were largely from the Midwest and Northeast and had college educations. Compared to the current tenants, they are pious monks to the architect who hypothetically is now tasked with designing for the unruly. There is no micro design solution on it's face, but it might be in the overall best interest of the city to allow a "staging" area for immigrants. Just a though..

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Whenever the evil Republican suburbanite Limbaugh-listening FoxNews-watching mobs complain about crime in low-income apartment complexes out in the burbs, the right-thinking progressive inner-loopers ask them, "Where are you going to put them? Where are the poor people supposed to live?" It's one of the most popular petards to lob on HAIF.

So if we demolish thousands of units in Gulfton, where are those people supposed to go. I suppose the right-thinking progressive answer is "Sugar Land."

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Whenever the evil Republican suburbanite Limbaugh-listening FoxNews-watching mobs complain about crime in low-income apartment complexes out in the burbs, the right-thinking progressive inner-loopers ask them, "Where are you going to put them?  Where are the poor people supposed to live?"  It's one of the most popular petards to lob on HAIF.

So if we demolish thousands of units in Gulfton, where are those people supposed to go.  I suppose the right-thinking progressive answer is "Sugar Land."

Naa. No public transportation in SL.  Alief area maybe? Greenspoint? Of course Greenspoint is just as bad if not worse. 

Edited by LunaticFringe

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Sugar Land's zoning is set up to only include a small number of apartments.

CDeb, I'm thinking unincorporated Harris County, to the northwest, the north, and the west, would absorb former Gulfton tenants. There is no zoning in unincorporated areas.

So if we demolish thousands of units in Gulfton, where are those people supposed to go. I suppose the right-thinking progressive answer is "Sugar Land."

Sugar Land's zoning prevents large clusters of apartments like you see in Houston and unincorporated Harris County. Even if it gets public transport, I don't see how Sugar Land would change.

Naa. No public transportation in SL. Alief area maybe? Greenspoint? Of course Greenspoint is just as bad if not worse.

Edited by VicMan
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I was purely tongue-in-cheek on the Sugar Land thing, VicMan

I knew that but you did bring up a valid question. If Houston was to raze countless numbers of slum apartments (and Houston has plenty), where would these people go? Will the goverment provide them housing? Where would they build it because no communities outside of Houston would allow it. 

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I knew that but you did bring up a valid question. If Houston was to raze countless numbers of slum apartments (and Houston has plenty), where would these people go? Will the goverment provide them housing? Where would they build it because no communities outside of Houston would allow it. 

If the City of Houston had a campaign to raze slum apartments, occupancy rates at existing apartments across the metropolitan area would increase.

Then there are the unincorporated areas adjacent to or near the city limits, like Aldine, Mission Bend, Westfield, etc. Harris County has no zoning, so people have less recourse in case a builder wants to build apartments.

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Whenever the evil Republican suburbanite Limbaugh-listening FoxNews-watching mobs complain about crime in low-income apartment complexes out in the burbs, the right-thinking progressive inner-loopers ask them, "Where are you going to put them? Where are the poor people supposed to live?" It's one of the most popular petards to lob on HAIF.

So if we demolish thousands of units in Gulfton, where are those people supposed to go. I suppose the right-thinking progressive answer is "Sugar Land."

First off they could go back to Honduras.

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I knew that but you did bring up a valid question. If Houston was to raze countless numbers of slum apartments (and Houston has plenty), where would these people go? Will the goverment provide them housing? Where would they build it because no communities outside of Houston would allow it. 

midtown would be perfect. lots of transportation access. community services are prevalent. lots of mediocre 10 yr old apartments in a city where lots of newer apartments are offering deals.

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I don't care how nasty Gulfton, Sharpstown, Greenspoint, etc.. are. I don't go there. When people tell me that Houston is an ugly city I tell them that it's not ugly if you just avoid the bad parts. When you've got West U., Midtown, the Memorial Villages, etc. why would you even pay any attention to Gulfton?

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If the City of Houston had a campaign to raze slum apartments, occupancy rates at existing apartments across the metropolitan area would increase.

Then there are the unincorporated areas adjacent to or near the city limits, like Aldine, Mission Bend, Westfield, etc. Harris County has no zoning, so people have less recourse in case a builder wants to build apartments.

Zoning has absolutely no bearing on what would happen to the displaced tenants of Gulfton, were Gulfton to be systematically demolished. People living in Gulfton cannot afford (or are otherwise ineligible for) new government-subsidized affordable housing. They'd move into other crappy market-rate complexes, probably not too far from Gulfton (which represents a huge community of Central American immigrants), indirectly displacing more diverse populations (that also aren't able to afford subsidized housing) and scattering them to the winds.

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Zoning has absolutely no bearing on what would happen to the displaced tenants of Gulfton, were Gulfton to be systematically demolished. People living in Gulfton cannot afford (or are otherwise ineligible for) new government-subsidized affordable housing. They'd move into other crappy market-rate complexes, probably not too far from Gulfton (which represents a huge community of Central American immigrants), indirectly displacing more diverse populations (that also aren't able to afford subsidized housing) and scattering them to the winds.

It seems to me that these slums/ghettos exist as long as there are newly arrive immigrants, legal or not, or who are arriving and need a place to live that is cheap. Change only occurs slowly, when the 2nd - 3rd generation get educated and move up to better digs. As the original settlers die off or move away a higher class will slowly move in and transform the area. However, this will not happen if the flow of newly arrive immigrants of the same ethnic/social class continues.

This is what happened in places like Chicago and New York. As the ethnicity of the immigrants changed they settled in different areas. Each area became a ghetto or slum and gradually became more upscale as the residents became more affluent and the ethnicity of the new immigrants changed. After all new immigrants don't want to live in a ghetto where they do not know the languages or customs, they seek out their own kind.

I don't think that it can change overnight. Look at the urban renewal disasters of the 60-70's where slums were torn down and new highrise complexes such as Chicago's Cabrini Green were built. What a mess that became.

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If the City of Houston had a campaign to raze slum apartments, occupancy rates at existing apartments across the metropolitan area would increase.

True. But it will never happen. Slumlords control the City Of Houston govenment. 

Edited by LunaticFringe
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Whenever the evil Republican suburbanite Limbaugh-listening FoxNews-watching mobs complain about crime in low-income apartment complexes out in the burbs, the right-thinking progressive inner-loopers ask them, "Where are you going to put them? Where are the poor people supposed to live?" It's one of the most popular petards to lob on HAIF.

So if we demolish thousands of units in Gulfton, where are those people supposed to go. I suppose the right-thinking progressive answer is "Sugar Land."

I would have said that it's actually a slum lord asking "where are you going to put them?"

The slum lord's statement would go something like this:

"I perform a service. I provide housing to people who can't live anywhere else....

They have to live somewhere. Do you want them near you?....

No?....

Alright then, leave me alone to run the Casa del Miseria the way I want to!"

On a more serious note, I knew someone would ask the question "where are you going to put them?" The question really is bogus, because it makes three huge, wrong assumptions.

First, the question assumes that all poor people are undesirable criminals. They aren't. For every thug in a bad apartment complex, there are ten people who are as honest, law abiding, and hard working as you and me. (In many complexes they're afraid to speak out - because they could be evicted, or killed for doing so - but they are there.)

Second, it assumes an all-or-nothing argument. Knock down ALL the apartments and where will THEY ALL go? Of course it's impossible to knock down ALL the apartments and you wouldn't want to. The key is to be strategic about it, and of course build back new housing as appropriate.

Third, it assumes that if you demolish 200 units, you displace 200 families. Not true if those 200 units are vacant - and slums often have a big proportion of vacant units. Local markets could easily absorb the loss, and that'd be to their benefit.

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The first sentence already occurs, so not much tearing apart to do, except to point out that an HPD sergeant that I know who is part of the 'hot spot' squad that swarms areas with high crime told me that there were so many cops out in Gulfton that they were running into each other. He told me this anecdote about a year and a half ago, so I do not know if they are still there. From time to time I read about them in other parts of town. They are deployed in conjunction with HPD's computer analysis of crime trends.

I have no idea what the last sentence means. EVERY person who is arrested for a crime is prosecuted, not just the 'serious criminals'. If your suggestion is that those with a long rap sheet should be arrested without having committed a crime first, but merely because they have a criminal record, I would question why you even live in the US. There are numerous countries that have the draconian laws that you espouse. It would be much easier for you to move to one of them than for us to get rid of the US and Texas Constitutions and institute a crime of being a 'person of poor character'. If your suggestion is more along the lines of setting higher bonds and bigger sentences to those who commit crimes in Gulfton than elsewhere, that is much easier said than done. However, there is no reason that the DA's office could not assign a task force to creating a coordinated prosecution of Gulfton's most wanted, though I would submit that they have too many task forces already. And there are many policies in place to handle 'revolving door' criminals, such as no bond for a person who commits a new felony while on bond for another felony. That is already done countywide.

Much of the Gulfton apartment problem comes from the design of the apartments, allowing crime to occur in the courtyards, out of sight of the police. It is very labor intensive to inspect each of these courtyards, and drug dealers not being as stupid as one might think, post sentries at the gates to warn of approaching officers. Perhaps, rather than spend tax money to fix all of these problems, we should fine the architects who designed these crime traps for engaging in negligent design. That way, we could force architects to consider the societal costs of their ill-thought out designs. The fines collected could go toward salaries for the extra police required to patrol poorly designed apartments, and for razing of bad apartments and building of schools in their place.

Your point is very well taken.

My first statement was that the most serious criminals - gang leaders, murderers, rapists - need to be permanently locked up. Too often, in Gulfton, it seems they aren't.

Regarding apartments. I'd be interested to hear how you'd like to sue a bunch of crochety old architects who've long since died of liver cancer. But you're right about the stuff they did. Apartment designs from the 1970s have very serious drawbacks that all but invite crime to occur. The saddest thing is that my apartment-designing peers don't seem to have learned from these mistakes. They're STILL making them! You wouldn't believe how angry it makes me.

I must say, however, I am viewing it from a construction standpoint because of my profession. But you and TheNiche are right. There are lots of factors that are dragging down Gulfton; not just the apartments.

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First, the question assumes that all poor people are undesirable criminals. They aren't. For every thug in a bad apartment complex, there are ten people who are as honest, law abiding, and hard working as you and me. (In many complexes they're afraid to speak out - because they could be evicted, or killed for doing so - but they are there.)

Let's turn it around. For every ten honest, law abiding, and hard working poor people, there is one thug. Who wants an extra eleven people from Gulfton living near them?

Second, it assumes an all-or-nothing argument. Knock down ALL the apartments and where will THEY ALL go? Of course it's impossible to knock down ALL the apartments and you wouldn't want to. The key is to be strategic about it, and of course build back new housing as appropriate.

Knock down 2,000 apartments and where do all 2,000 people go? Knock down 200 apartments and where do all 200 people go? The argument is scalable.

If you do build back new housing, first of all, subsidized housing programs support workforce housing. They aren't designed for the desperately poor. A new element will be introduced; the old element will be permanently displaced. And second of all, the spirit of the subsidized housing programs (as codified by law) is that the lower-middle-class can enjoy the same opportunities (schools, jobs, etc.) as do more affluent households; how does sticking such housing in the middle of the ghetto achieve that purpose?

Third, it assumes that if you demolish 200 units, you displace 200 families. Not true if those 200 units are vacant - and slums often have a big proportion of vacant units.

The Gulfton submarket presently has has only 9.25% vacancy and has year-to-date positive absorption of 647 units. It's doing quite well. The Houston metropolitan area has 12.70% vacancy, and but not for all the new construction delivering to market, would be facing some serious negative absorption.

Local markets could easily absorb the loss, and that'd be to their benefit.

Why do you care that one slumlord benefits from another's displaced tenants? As occupancy rises, concessions disappear and rents go up. That's to the detriment of Houston's poor.

Your name wouldn't happen to be Hubert Vo, would it?

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The Gulfton submarket presently has has only 9.25% vacancy and has year-to-date positive absorption of 647 units. It's doing quite well.

I must confess, I am a little shocked that you would say that the "Gulfton Ghetto" is "doing quite well." If looked at solely from an occupancy rate, Gulfton might seem to be doing well. But the area has VERY serious crime problems, concentrated poverty, poor infrastructure, a horrible reputation, and lagging property values compared to neighboring areas.

Gulfton's problems are especially troubling, to me, given the prime location of the neighborhood.

Let's turn it around. For every ten honest, law abiding, and hard working poor people, there is one thug. Who wants an extra eleven people from Gulfton living near them?

Throw the thug in jail, and leave him there. Give the other ten better apartments - with services to help them get their lives on track, and with a safe environment for their kids. It CAN be done. I've seen it.

Knock down 2,000 apartments and where do all 2,000 people go? Knock down 200 apartments and where do all 200 people go? The argument is scalable.

If you do build back new housing, first of all, subsidized housing programs support workforce housing. They aren't designed for the desperately poor. A new element will be introduced; the old element will be permanently displaced. And second of all, the spirit of the subsidized housing programs (as codified by law) is that the lower-middle-class can enjoy the same opportunities (schools, jobs, etc.) as do more affluent households; how does sticking such housing in the middle of the ghetto achieve that purpose?

So you don't want better housing for the poor? On the one hand, you seem to be saying that subsidized housing is bad because it doesn't support the desperately poor. On the other hand, you're implying that it has to be built in wealthy neighborhoods in order to work. (Which is often impossible due to neighborhood concerns).

You want to maintain the status quo?

I don't. I want Houston to redirect attention to older apartment complexes, and use those as quality housing for the working poor. The City of Houston started to do it in Fondren Southwest - and it was a huge success. There's money in the TDHCA's coffers to do more of it - if only we could convince them to renovate instead of building new apartments in neighborhoods that don't want them. This could be an integral part to cleaning up neighborhoods like Gulfton.

In closing, I will apologize here for suggesting that the City of Houston fix Gulfton by redirecting funds from other sources. Gulfton is our City's largest, densest ghetto. It's certainly not Houston's only ghetto. They all need attention.

I would still say, though, that I see Gulfton as an indicator of Houston's city-wide urban policy. If the policy is good, Gulfton will get better.

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I must confess, I am a little shocked that you would say that the "Gulfton Ghetto" is "doing quite well." If looked at solely from an occupancy rate, Gulfton might seem to be doing well. But the area has VERY serious crime problems, concentrated poverty, poor infrastructure, a horrible reputation, and lagging property values compared to neighboring areas.

Gulfton's problems are especially troubling, to me, given the prime location of the neighborhood.

How about you go back and read the comment that I was responding to. You said that downtrodden areas typically have a high vacancy rate. In this case, the reverse is true. You were wrong.

Please dispense with the straw men arguments.

Throw the thug in jail, and leave him there. Give the other ten better apartments - with services to help them get their lives on track, and with a safe environment for their kids. It CAN be done. I've seen it.

Really? You've seen a longitudinal social experiment play out based on similar scenarios to what you're proposing, complete with with adequate and representative data!? SWEET! I want to see that!! Where I find the study?

I'd be especially interested in what happened to the persons you labeled "thugs". Were they jailed? How long? On what charges? Were they convicted? If so, how long was it before they typically became eligible for parole? And where did they end up upon release?

Inquiring minds want to know. :)

So you don't want better housing for the poor? On the one hand, you seem to be saying that subsidized housing is bad because it doesn't support the desperately poor. On the other hand, you're implying that it has to be built in wealthy neighborhoods in order to work. (Which is often impossible due to neighborhood concerns).

You want to maintain the status quo?

You're reading WAY too far into what my preferences or motivations are. The fact is that you're completely off (again).

Per the spirit of Federal law, the intent of affordable housing is as I described it. However, individual states are allowed to determine how best to administer the programs. And in Texas, the TDHCA is tasked with those efforts. The way their process is set up, it is actually easier to score points on developers proposing affordable housing in areas that already have plenty of affordable housing--albeit crappy housing...just the way you propose.

Personally, I completely disagree with the spirit of the program at the Federal level (I'd rather that it not exist in any form whatsoever), although I like the way that they administer it at that level. Wrong strategy, excellent tactics. At the State level, Texas got it wrong (i.e. wrong strategy, wrong tactics). It has absolutely NOTHING to do with neighborhood concerns. The rate at which neighborhoods successfully protest affordable housing is dismal; to the extent that any neighborhoods declare victory over a developer of affordable housing, the cancellation of a such a project is typically well beyond their control, not that they would understand how the system works well enough to realize how inept their efforts were in the first place, much less why a cancellation might occur.

...but what I think personally has no bearing on the criticisms I've presented regarding your ideas. I'm critical of your ideas because they are short-sighted and lack substance regardless of one's perspective on the treatment of poor people, not because they aren't well-aligned with my personal political beliefs.

I want Houston to redirect attention to older apartment complexes, and use those as quality housing for the working poor. The City of Houston started to do it in Fondren Southwest - and it was a huge success. There's money in the TDHCA's coffers to do more of it - if only we could convince them to renovate instead of building new apartments in neighborhoods that don't want them. This could be an integral part to cleaning up neighborhoods like Gulfton.

I looked at renting a 2/1 condo off of Sandpiper in the Fondren/Southwest submarket just a couple weeks ago. The asking rent was only $400. And then I drove out there and looked around. HELL NO. If Fondren/Southwest is your concept of success, then you don't know what Fondren/Southwest is all about. I'd rather live in Gulfton, but couldn't hope to get such a great deal on a per-square-foot basis.

As for TDHCA, they receive far more proposals for new affordable housing than they can presently grant. You have yet to answer a question I posed a ways back. Why is Gulfton more deserving of affordable housing than any other ghetto in town? And secondarily, why should affordable housing be placed in poor areas, given that such action violates the spirit of the Tax Credit program?

You also apparently aren't reading my responses to you or else you'd know by now that TDHCA's programs already allow subsidy of the substantial rennovation of apartment complexes and you would not be raising that specific point as an issue.

In closing, I will apologize here for suggesting that the City of Houston fix Gulfton by redirecting funds from other sources. Gulfton is our City's largest, densest ghetto. It's certainly not Houston's only ghetto. They all need attention.

Your apology is not apparent from the content of your response.

I would still say, though, that I see Gulfton as an indicator of Houston's city-wide urban policy. If the policy is good, Gulfton will get better.

Gulfton's fate is not necessarily dependent upon policy. Market forces could override policy, whether to Gulfton's benefit (however you define it) or detriment.

Edited by TheNiche

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KHOU ran a bigl article today on the gang-wars that are gripping Gulfton.

As an architect, Gulfton has always fascinated me. Gulfton abuts some of the most desirable parts of our metropolis - Uptown; Bellaire; West U - but it is referred to as the "Gulfton Ghetto." Crime rates are much higher than the norm. Poverty abounds.

This post will be unlike my previous post about the Sharpstown Mall. That was more about architecture and design. This is more about urban policy and tactics that could be used to turn Gulfton around.

First we need to understand why Gulfton is a ghetto. Common wisdom is that the reason is apartments. It's not that apartments are bad. It's not that renters are bad. The problem in Gulfton is that the apartments there are basically all wrong.

- Gulfton's apartment complexes are too big. 200 units seems to be the limit for a good, older complex. Many of Gulfton's complexes have ten times that many.

- There's not much diversity in Gulfton's real estate. There are no offices or employment centers in Gulfton.

- Gulfton was developed very fast in the 1970s, infrastructure never caught up.

- Gulfton was overbuilt with apartments in the 1970s, and has never recovered from the ensuing collapse of the 1980s.

So what can we do now?

1: First we need to go apartment by apartment and make an honest evaluation of the properties. Complexes should be ranked based on crime rates, number of code violations, and anonymous tenant surveys.

2: The lowest ranked apartments (maybe 10% of the total units in Gulfton) should be demolished, and replaced with non-apartment development. (Retail, offices, schools, libraries, etc.)

3: The next lowest ranked apartments (the next 15%) should be gutted and renovated into new apartments.

4: HPD needs to swarm Gulfton while all of this is happening. While the worst 10% of apartments in Gulfton are demolished, the 10% of Gulfton residents that are serious criminals should be rounded up and jailed.

There is money to do this - but it needs to be re-directed from other functions. The City of Houston actively works with developers and State and Federal funding sources to improve apartments. Those efforts could be concentrated in Gulfton. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs sits on huge coffers of money. If they stopped building new apartments in Houston, and started using funds to repair apartments it would go a very long way in Gulfton.

I've started to believe that Gulfton will be a measure of Houston's next mayor. If his or her urban and police policies are good - Gulfton will turn. If they are a failure, Gulfton will continue to languish. These are only one architect's ideas of how to fix the "Gulfton Ghetto."

Ok.. yea... lets see.... HPD "swarm" Gulfton? LMAO.

Look.. you uproot the Gulfton Ghetto.... then the slumhabitants will move and turn some other neighborhood into a Ghetto.

I believe I have the best idea though, in an attempt to accomplish your 'dream':

STEP 1: Go through the entire Gulfton Ghetto Apartment Complexes and hand out free blankets that contain smallpox. There is a precedent for such a strategy (and government approved).

All other steps will easily follow.....

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