Last fall, a group of Denton County seniors had been meeting in secret to discuss what could be done about their rent prices at the apartment where they lived in Lewisville.
They were living on fixed incomes that didn’t account for the skyrocketing rent prices. With the claim they were “aging into poverty,” they formed the Lewisville Senior Challenges Coalition to raise awareness and demand action from elected officials.
In late January, the coalition met with state Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, to discuss the two housing crises seniors in Denton County are facing: One is an immediate need, and the other is long-term, they said.
“There is also a deep disconnection between what low- and fixed-income seniors are able to pay each month and what property owners and managers expect for skyrocketing rent rates each year,” Nancy Sansom, the coalition’s coordinator and spokesperson, pointed out in a Jan. 24 email.
Formerly known as Lewisville Seniors for Fair Low and Fixed Income Housing and Rent, the coalition has been appearing at Lewisville City Council meetings to raise awareness and ask for help from their elected officials. In response, the council formed the Financial Housing Corporation to work with developers to offer more affordable housing for seniors.
Lewisville Mayor Pro Tem Brandon Jones called it a long-term solution that didn’t address the immediate need.
“No one wants to see their grandmother or grandfather in danger of not having a home,” the seniors noted Jones saying in an October press release.
“Lewisville is trying to expand its affordable housing inventory,” Jones told the Denton Record-Chronicle then. “But even if we started yesterday and everything goes smoothly, we still need to try to find something temporary to help these folks right now.”
The coalition caravanned to the meeting with Parker, equipped with the questions they planned to ask him:
- How can you use your position as state senator to help us seniors, whom you represent and are facing immediate risks of losing their apartments due to increasing rents and stagnant income?
- How does the state senator propose solving the long-term crisis by more favorable legislation for seniors?
Parker’s office had not responded to requests for comment from the Record-Chronicle by Friday afternoon.
At the meeting, Sansom said that Parker discussed several issues with the group, including:
- Parker and staff will be asking Housing and Urban Development/Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to adjust annual income levels that reflect seniors’ low and fixed income. (Currently, the HUD/TDHCA rent chart show that the average area yearly medium income is $97,400.)
- Parker suggested that a dialogue and more planning with developers to build and offer more low-income rentals is needed, rather than the unaffordable high-priced rental units that are currently being developed in places like Denton.
- Parker is also reviewing reports on RealPage, a real estate management software with a rent-setting algorithm based in Richardson. They hold lease transaction data for more than 13 million units throughout the country and 53 million units throughout the world. Setting rent prices is one of the concerns raised by experts.
RealPage was accused in 2022 of using its software to help landlords increase rent prices. It’s currently facing 11 class-action lawsuits and a Department of Justice investigation, according to a Nov. 29 D Magazine report.
RealPage has denied the accusations.
“Over the last five years, they are like an octopus squeezing the life out of renters, with no end in sight, not only in Denton County but the state and the entire country,” Sansom said about the company.
Investment firms don’t seem to be helping and are often driving up rent prices for single-family homes, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report. Investors bought 24% of all single-family homes that sold in 2021 in the U.S. and 29% in Texas, based on data provided by CoreLogic.
Pew reported that in places like Las Vegas, mostly Black and Hispanic residents began gathering petitions for a ballot initiative to limit rent increases.
But in Texas, rent control is precluded by state law unless during a disaster, as Denton Mayor Pro Tem Brian Beck, who’s seeking reelection in May, confirmed to the Record-Chronicle last June.
“I would support identifying a portfolio of strategies to help moderate housing pressures, including support for more and different types of single and multifamily dwellings, particularly in in-fill parcels, ADUs, and re-development, but also rent controls and homestead exemption increases,” Beck said.
Parker didn’t mention anything about rent control at their meeting, but Sansom said that Parker planned to speak with HUD and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to address lowering the median income range for seniors on fixed incomes.
Sansom said that the $97,400 was much higher than the incomes of the Lewisville Senior Challenges Coalition. She said their median income was barely $15,000 annually for many of them.
“We have accomplished the impossible today,” Sansom told members in an email. “There is now an important state leader that has listened to our concerns and is willing to work with us on a regular basis to accomplish our goals.
“Both [Lewisville] Mayor TJ Gilmore and Sen. Tan Parker expressed their admiration for our dedication and tenacity in furthering not only our cause but for others as well.”
Sansom encourages seniors who are living on fixed incomes to start attending Lewisville City Council meetings to make their voices heard. The coalition plans to attend the next council meeting Monday evening.
“Many seniors are facing possible eviction because the rent, according to HUD and Texas housing, is way above what we can afford,” Sansom said. “What we’re looking for is to encourage seniors in this county to support this legislation that Tan Parker is willing to do. We’re hoping that he will authorize a bill to make a change to the way HUD and Texas Housing figures their [median income] amounts.”
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