Bryan City Council Votes No on Affordable Housing

In a 5-2 decision the Bryan City Council voted to close the door on affordable housing last night despite the many objections of those that came to testify against the zoning ordinance change.

The Bryan City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission rocketed an ordinance through on one reading to prohibit the installation of manufactured homes except as replacement homes on lots that were previously inclusively zoned.

The revision to chapter 130 of the city's ordinances deletes the MU1 zoning designation completely, which had allowed for the installation of manufactured homes by right, and updates all parcels currently holding that designation to RD-5, under which manufactured homes are prohibited. The manufactured homes that are today sited on RD-5 parcels will now be considered non-conforming uses.

The stated rationale for the change by the planning and zoning commissioners responsible for sending the zoning revision to council was that the council had previously approved the comprehensive plan titled BluePrint 2040, that called for these changes to be made. Councilman Southerland, one of the two votes against the change, pointed out that the comprehensive plan projected an increased need of an additional 754 acres devoted to manufactured housing to fulfill the city's projected growth by the year 2040 and that the language regarding a change of MU-1 to RD-5 was not absolute but more of a lot by lot consideration.

Councilman Southerland went on to note that a manufactured home on one of the parcels to be rezoned had increased in both the structure and land values assessed and taxed by the Brazos County Appraisal District, despite the Planning and Zoning Commissioners statements that manufactured homes lose 50% of their value in five years.

The commissioners also cited a statistic that they came up with from counting MH properties with homestead exemptions on the tax rolls that 85% of those properties were not homesteaded and therefore must be rentals. The 85% figure came into question at the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on the ordinance as TMHA Past-Chairman and current Treasurer Karl Radde pointed out that homesteading required an updated driver's license listed with the property address in question and not everyone could or would have taken those steps for the declaration.

Councilman Southerland also challenged this line of reasoning asking what was wrong with rental properties anyway? According to the 2016 American Community Survey 53.8% of the housing units in Bryan are rented. And when analyzing specific census tracts wholly within the city limits the three tracts with the highest proportion of manufactured homes as a percentage of their housing stock all had total housing rental rates that were lower than the city.  

Regardless of the exact number of MH rental properties, given the P&Z Commission's stated position that all MH owners will eventually have an equity value of $0, it is astonishing that such a high proportion of MH property investors are able to find consumers willing to pay monthly for nothing.

The P&Z commissioners and multiple council members in support of the ordinance referenced the continued need for affordable housing on one hand, while pushing forward a plan to ensure that current and future citizens of the city will not have access to the one unsubsidized and market proven option that until yesterday, they already had the right to choose.     

In the end we applaud all those impacted residents who showed up and had their voices heard at not just the council meeting, but at the planning and zoning meeting two weeks earlier. We'd also like to thank Councilmen Madison and Southerland for voting no on the ordinance and leaving a sliver of hope that if the protest petition effort reaches the 20% threshold, the ordinance would not go into effect.

After the ordinance was voted on, the council later took up the issue of age restrictions for manufactured homes to be installed in the city. After initially supporting a previous amendment setting the rolling age to 10 years or newer, Councilmembers Marin and Hairston voted in support of an amended version pulling the age restriction back to five-years or newer.

Councilman Southerland was the sole vote in opposition.