Nestled along the George Bush Turnpike in Plano, the Latitude apartment complex epitomizes luxury living. Its website proudly proclaims a blend of "modern luxury and classic sophistication." However, beneath this façade of opulence lies a complex issue of affordable housing and tax exemptions.
The Collin County Tax Assessor's Office initially projected that this new development would contribute a significant $1.5 million in property taxes this year. But, like several other multimillion-dollar properties in the area that have committed to providing affordable housing, Latitude will not be paying these taxes.
Plano City Manager Mark Israelson has been scrutinizing this trend, particularly focusing on developments operating as public facility corporations (PFCs), which enjoy tax-free status. This exemption has resulted in a substantial $12 million loss in annual tax revenue for local governments in Plano. Triggered by a 2015 Texas Legislature decision, these tax breaks were intended to encourage affordable housing development. Yet, the city is now challenging this outcome in court, questioning the actual affordability of these developments.
"Are these developments truly affordable? Are we seeing a real shift into the affordable housing category?" Israelson queries. According to Dave Young, the executive director of the Plano Housing Authority, the city has facilitated 13 deals, supposedly making the area affordable for workers in retail, restaurants, and even city employees. This initiative is said to provide housing for about 2,300 families annually.
However, a closer examination reveals a different story. About half of these PFCs market themselves as luxury complexes, raising questions about the real beneficiaries of these subsidies. "Are we essentially funding luxury apartments?" asks Andrea Lucia of CBS News Texas. Young defends the quality of these developments, arguing that affordable housing in Plano shouldn’t equate to substandard living conditions.
When CBS News Texas spoke to residents at Jada Legacy and Opal Legacy apartments, both PFCs, they reported lower rents compared to other areas, yet still steep. One resident mentioned paying $1,800 in rent, which, though relatively lower, is hardly affordable by many standards.
Developers engaging in PFC deals aren't mandated to reduce rents to a specific level but are expected to allocate at least half of their units to low-income residents. In the Dallas Metro Area, this translates to families earning about $82,500 or less. However, Ben Martin, research director for Texas Housers, a nonprofit focused on low-income housing, points out that the greatest housing need is for those earning significantly less than this threshold.
This situation in Plano raises essential questions about the efficacy and direction of policies intended to foster affordable housing. It underscores the complexity of balancing the needs for both luxury and affordability in a rapidly developing urban landscape.