As I noted in a posting earlier this week the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC) is up for review during the next session of the Texas Legislature. As part of the Sunset Review Process the agency must be specifically reauthorized to continue in existence.
On Tuesday the Sunset Commission board met and recommended some minor changes to the TSAHC statute. These recommendations will be submitted to the Texas Legislature when they come into session next January.
In my earlier posting I made the point that I felt the Sunset Commission’s emphasis on TSAHC’s new role as an agency responsible for securing grants from business and foundations was not the proper reason to reauthorize the agency and would condemn TSAHC to eventual failure.
First, there is no reason to set up an intermediary state entity to get between foundations and donors and housing providers and second I sincerely doubt that TSAHC will be able to fund raise enough private donations to offset its administrative costs.
I urged instead that TSAHC be set up to be a program developer and innovator to work on financing approaches to meet the housing needs of difficult to serve populations that the Legislature identified as requiring assistance.
Well, the Sunset Commission adopted the original staff recommendations and set the agency on the task of doing fund raising. The recommendation will now be considered by the Legislature when they convene in January.
I am a big fan of the Sunset review process based on the successful and thorough restructuring of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs several years ago. But I found the TSAHC review to be far less effective. From the discussion between the members of the Sunset Commission at the original hearing back in April it became clear that the members of the Sunset Commission just did not have adequate information about state housing needs or the roles of TSAHC and TDHCA to make an informed decision.
Take for example the discussion among the members about whether a decision to extend TSAHC’s mandate to exist four years or six years. Some members argued that extending the agency four years would jeopardize the ability of the agency to issue bonds for longer terms. The members went back and forth over this issue. Yet this is a non-issue. TSAHC’s ability to issue bods is completely unrelated to the agency’s sunset date. Over the years TDHCA has issued a large number of housing bonds even when the agency was facing immediate Sunset review.
The April discussion of the Commission demonstrated a number of critical misunderstandings about agency operations and key matters of state housing policy. In short, this time the Sunset Commission deliberations took place without an adequate understanding of the facts and in my opinion the quality of the Commission’s decisions have suffered.