According to the Houston Chronicle, Galveston is up in arms over the reconstruction of 569 units of public housing. Of course Galveston should build back 569 low income housing units. But many of the issues surrounding low income housing are lost in the debate. In fact, some major issues are missing from the Redevelopment Plan published by the Housing Authority of Galveston.
Education. “More than 75 percent of the homes [on the Island] sustained damage. After the hurricane, 1,900 students were displaced and did not re-enroll at the Galveston Independent Schools.” (page 10). Surely Galveston’s schools were also damaged by Hurricane Ike, and it is imperative that Galveston rebuild its schools. Education is especially important to low income Islanders. It is key to ending the cycle of poverty. But the Housing Authority’s Plan offers little beyond GED preparation courses.
Transit. According to the Plan, about a third of the tenants of new public housing in Galveston will have incomes less than $19,150. (figure, page 54). Tenants in that income bracket may not have automobiles. They will rely on Island Transit to get around. But there are few provisions for transit in the Plan.
Crime. This is a huge concern in low income and public housing. It could have a whole chapter in the Plan. But the word “crime” appears only five times in 109 pages. The Plan calls for Community Policing, and various programs to mitigate crime. It appears to call for CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design,) but does not include security officers or police patrols.
To be fair, none of these things are directly under the control of the Housing Authority of Galveston. Police patrols are the domain of the Galveston Police Department. The Galveston Independent School District is in charge of rebuilding schools. Island Transit handles transit in Galveston. But partnerships should be included to address crime, education, and transit in Galveston’s low income housing.
Galveston should build back 569 units of safe, quality, low income housing. It should be a model for low income housing nationwide; not the old-fashioned, crime ridden public housing projects that we all know and fear. It looks like this is the goal of the Housing Authority of Galveston’s Redevelopment Plan. But they’re glossing over some key elements.