Five days before Christmas and just a few days after the city was accused of prejudice by the owner of a dilapidated housing development in northwest Harker Heights, City Manager Steve Carpenter discussed the history of the city’s landscape and his projections for the future.
Carpenter said at one time almost one-third of all housing in the city was manufactured homes. But that number has dropped significantly in the past 10 years, according to the 2010 census.
“It’s safe to say that at one time 30 percent was manufactured housing,” he said. “That figure is at 17 percent now and a lot of those are empty.”
Several months ago, a Heights resident accused the city of being prejudiced against mobile homes after the Harker Heights City Council denied her request to rezone property on Ball Drive so she could put a mobile home there.
And last week, David Buttross, owner of Buttross Properties in Austin, called the city prejudiced against minorities and people with low incomes after the council approved the demolition of 19 of his houses on Lynn Drive that were deemed unsafe structures.
“They don’t want minorities to own homes in Harker Heights,” he said.
Buttross said he spent $50,000 to repair and remodel some of the Lynn Drive houses and believes he did everything the city asked him to do to bring the buildings up to code.
“We are very happy to pour our money into the Harker Heights community to help improve the quality of low-income tenants,” Buttross said.
Carpenter disagreed with the accusations, saying that he and the building and planning department are simply taking steps to improve the safety of housing and the city’s overall appearance. But he said stricter building standards have made it difficult for some multi-family housing units, like fourplexes, to be built.
“If you look at fourplexes that have been built, they’re not very attractive,” Carpenter said. “But there is room for all types of housing in the city.”
No fourplexes were constructed in the past five years, but more duplexes, which are typically more affordable for people with low incomes, have cropped up, according to the city. Along with duplexes, Carpenter would like to see more apartment complexes and condominiums built, too, to increase housing options for single people.
“I talked to some of our mobile home park people, and you get a lot of soldiers living there,” he said. “What do we do with the soldiers and the young professionals? They need the opportunity to live here, too.”
Although Buttross has threatened the city with lawsuits, Carpenter is confident that the city has taken all legal steps necessary in the Lynn Drive demolitions, saying it only wants to improve the quality of life for low-income tenants.