HARKER HEIGHTS — Ten years ago, the city landscape was dominated by manufactured homes and multi-family houses. Since then, stricter building codes were established, more single-family homes were built and many mobile homes and fourplexes were removed, City Manager Steve Carpenter said.
As a result, some property owners have accused the city of being prejudiced against manufactured housing and homes that are affordable for people with low incomes. But Carpenter said he and the building and planning department are simply taking steps to improve the safety of housing and the overall appearance of the city.
“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. But I think there’s a place for all types of housing.”
At one time, the city was home to many fourplex housing units, but those numbers have dropped, too, over the years due to stricter building standards established by the city, Carpenter said.
No fourplexes were constructed in the past five years, but more duplex units, which are typically more affordable for people with low-incomes, have cropped up, according to the city. Carpenter also would like to see more apartment complexes and condominiums built to increase the 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.”
On Tuesday, the Harker Heights City Council approved a contract for the demolition of 19 vacant houses on Lynn Drive that were deemed unsafe structures.
While city officials said their plan is not to eradicate low-income housing but to make the city a safe and attractive place to live, David Buttross is not buying it. As the owner of the Lynn Drive houses, he said Wednesday he believes the city’s prejudice against minorities is the real reason for the demolitions.
Buttross said he spent $50,000 to repair and remodel some of the 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 said the city wants to improve the quality of life for low-income tenants and that is why the houses are being demolished.