Plano roundup 02122022

A thorough discussion on federal housing funds in Plano surfaced in the Plano City Council chambers on Monday night. 

The discussion hinged on a proposed resolution that, to put it simply, seeks to increase the standard for household eligibility for U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant funds for homeowners and developers in Plano. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, the resolution was approved unanimously. 

Below is an explanation of the resolution and the resulting council discussion.

What does the resolution say?

To continue receiving HUD funds, Plano is required to submit its annual action plan.

HUD's administrative rules dictate that households and affordable housing developers are only eligible for grants if the home's price does not exceed 95% of the city's median home sale value. The city's 2021-22 Annual Action Plan outlines this median data, and with its most recent figures, the current eligibility limit that HUD can set is $285,000. 

This resolution authorizes changing the action plan in a way that reflects the current average market price for a home. If accepted by HUD, this would increase Plano residents' grant eligibility limit up to $418,000, which would allow more homeowners and affordable housing developers to be eligible to receive HUD grants through the city. 

Why is this important?

Residential property values in Plano are skyrocketing to a point where few homes in Plano are even eligible. 

Shanette Eaden, the city's Housing and Community Services Manager, told councilmembers that while the action plan's current data prompts an eligibility limit of $285,000, HUD advised city staff last week that it would increase the number from $285,000 to $311,000 in June. 

That increase was still not sufficient in adapting to the changes of the city's housing market, Eaden said, as city staff only found 11 total homes in Plano that were eligible under this limit. Even then, Eaden said homes in the city tend to sell for 5% higher than their market value, making most purchases of a $311,000 home ineligible for funds. 

This has implications for homeowners, prospective homeowners and affordable housing developers alike. 

“Over the last two years, our nonprofit developers have had a very hard time finding any properties in Plano that they can actually afford to buy," she said. 

How would this help the city?

Plano has a first-time homebuyer program wherein income-eligible buyers are given up to $55,000 to make a down payment or pay off closing costs on a home (they have to meet a number of requirements in order to be eligible.) Plano also has a program that helps subsidize construction, acquisition, rehabilitation and other expenses for affordable housing developments. 

These are all made possible with HUD grants, and the manner in which these funds are given is highly regulated. This resolution is intended to yield an increase in grant eligibility and housing options for low-income buyers and level the playing field in Plano's housing market. 

Does it have any disadvantages?

While the resolution was approved unanimously, councilmembers raised concerns. 

Councilwoman Julie Holmer said increased emphasis on the city's First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Program without doing anything to mitigate the housing shortage would make the housing market more competitive for first-time homeowners who did not receive funds but nonetheless saved up for a down payment. 

“I don’t mean to sound unappreciative – I think it’s wonderful that Plano has a program like this, but I also don’t want to create an environment where first-time homebuyers who have saved up their $55,000 for a down payment are competing with others who are, like, (…) winning the lottery,” Holmer said. 

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Maria Tu also critiqued the program's income limits, saying that a family of four with an annual income of $77,000 could be eligible for a $55,000 down payment grant, while a similar family with an annual income of $78,000 wouldn't on account of their salary exceeding eligibility limits. 

Furthermore, Councilman Shelby Williams argued that HUD funds should be used for other purposes. 

"It's a better use of the HUD funds to pursue homelessness prevention and financial counseling because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he said in a YouTube video that was uploaded following the council meeting. 

Garrett Gravley is the reporter for the Plano Star Courier, Allen American, Little Elm Journal and The Colony Courier-Leader. Email him at ggravley@starlocalmedia.com with story suggestions.

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