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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott approves RGV MPO

This article originally appeared in the Friday June 21, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

In a move that local officials say will boost the economy and strengthen transportation in the region, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a redesignation agreement to merge the three Valley Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

Abbott signed the merger agreement Friday, June 14 at an event attended by various Rio Grande Valley leaders such as Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Representatives Bobby Guerra and Terry Canales.

"Thanks to the hard work of many leaders and stakeholders here today, we are ushering in a new era of economic development and collaboration for the Rio Grande Valley," Abbott said at the signing ceremony. "This region plays such an important role in growing the Texas economy and strengthening our international trade partnerships. I look forward to the tremendous new opportunities this agreement will create for the people of the Rio Grande Valley."

A metropolitan planning organization is a local decision-making body that is responsible for overseeing the metropolitan transportation planning process. Federal law requires an MPO for each urbanized area with a population of more than 50,000 people.

Prior to this agreement, the Rio Grande Valley was home to three separate MPOs — Brownsville, Harlingen-San Benito, and Hidalgo County. The RGV MPO agreement will merge all three MPOs into one, encouraging economic development and strengthening transportation systems throughout the region. The agreement will also improve the Rio Grande Valley's ability to compete for greater funding opportunities for infrastructure projects.

With this agreement, the incoming Rio Grande Valley MPO will be able to compete with Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio for funds from the Texas Department of Transportation.

“We were fighting for the same cheese when it's better to get a bigger piece of it,” Pharr Mayor and Hidalgo County MPO Chairman Ambrosio Hernandez previously said. “It was time for us to work as a region to mobilize our resources together more effectively, maybe get bigger amount of funds for our region to cover all aspects of our needs. And what better way to do it...then doing it together rather than doing it in pieces.”

The merger had been in the works for years, Hernandez said.

According to Hernandez, 80 percent of MPO funds are distributed to the MPO’s for the areas of Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio due to their population size. Once the merger is finalized, the RGV MPO will be able to receive a portion of that 80 percent.

The goal is to have the new MPO set up by before the start of the upcoming fiscal year, Hernandez said. He added that the new MPO board will have 13 members representing the cities of Pharr, Mission, Edinburg, McAllen, Brownsville, Harlingen and San Benito, along with Hidalgo and Cameron County, for a combined 31 votes.

With this merger, Hernandez said potential future projects that could happen due to the increase in funding include the construction of a second causeway to South Padre Island and a highway loop that connects all of Hidalgo County.

“Our South Texas region will now have access to millions in funding for transportation infrastructure projects, which will lead to better economic opportunities for our entire region to enjoy,” Hernandez said in a statement.

 Written by Jose de Leon III


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CAF Airshow to soar at new location this weekend

The Commemorative Air Force Rio Grande Valley Wing AIRSHOW! takes off this weekend, and this year it’s at a new location.

The CAF AIRSHOW! will happen at the Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport, at 27517 Buena Vista Blvd. in Los Fresnos.

David Hughston, commander for the CAF RGV, said an advantage of having the air show at its new location “is that we don’t have to deal with the tower,” as they did at the old location at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

Hughston, a veteran pilot, will fly his Stearman, a 1947 PT (Personal Trainer) biplane used for military training, during the show.

Among the reenactments that the pilots will be performing at the AIRSHOW! is the pyrotechnic display featured in the “Tora! Tora! Tora!” segment where four replicas of Japanese fighters and torpedo planes have a starring role.

Two Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt “Warthogs,” based in Florida, are modern military aircraft and will take to the skies for simulated bombing runs.

“During AIRSHOW! there will be as many as 10 planes in the sky at once,” Hughston said. “These new ‘birds’ are always a hit with the crowd.”

The hangar also stores flyable WWII aircraft, such as the rare German Focke-Wulf 44 Stieglitz biplane and the American Stearman (Boeing) PT-13 biplane.

Advance tickets are available online at www.rgvcaf.org for $12. There is no admission cost for children under 12.

On the days of the event, tickets are $15 per person and each ticket is good for one adult, one day only.

Parking is available for $5 and begins at 9 a.m. with plenty of time to visit the on-site trade show and admire the vintage airplanes.

Flying begins at noon and will last approximately three hours.

Advance general admission “Flightline” tickets, an upgrade that includes a tent with chairs, refreshments available for purchase, and a porta-potty area under the tent, are available for $22. These tickets are available for purchase until noon on the day of the show. Each ticket is good for one adult, one day only. Children under 12 are free with adult; $5 per child entry to the Flightline Club.

VIP tickets are $150. Entry into Airshow 2019 VIP tent includes: private, covered, front-row seating, a catered lunch and snacks, as well as bottled water, sodas, juice and beer. Private parking is located directly behind VIP tent. Group rates are available.

Hughston said a special B-25 bomber flight is available for $300 per person for a group of five.

The CAF RGV Wing’s dream is to build a 5,000 to 6,000-square-foot museum adjacent to the airport, as well as additional buildings for offices and meeting rooms.

Advance tickets are also available at the following locations:

>> SPI Chamber of Commerce (inside the SPI Convention Centre);

>> Water’s Edge Gallery on SPI;

>> Hughston Insurance Agency, Brownsville;

>> Brownsville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau;

>> Mail-Pak-Your-Box Store, McAllen;

For more information, call (956) 454-4439.

sgroves@brownsvilleherald.com


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A call for artists: SPI Art Business Program seeking applicants

Local artists with the desire to own and operate their own art business may soon be able to.

The South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is seeking applicants for its new Art Business Incubator (ABI) program.

Artists accepted into the program will receive several benefits, including free studio space, an initial supplies stipend of $1,000, a monthly stipend of $200 and gallery display space to be located in a Padre Boulevard storefront.

The application is open to all 2-D and 3-D artists, including painting, sculpture, photography, film jewelry making, fabric art, graphic design and technology-based art.

Eligible applicants must possess experience in creating and marketing their art or educational experience such as a master’s degree or Master of Fine Arts.

SELECTION PROCESS

Selected semi-finalists will be notified and scheduled for an interview with a panel of judges within a week of being notified.

Finalists for the ABI Training program will begin a Kauffman Fast Trac Entrepreneurial Training.

Following the training, finalists will have two months to create a business plan that will be evaluated by Kauffman business trainers.

Selected applicants will begin a 12-month residency in the ABI program.

THE PURPOSE

According to ABI Program Director Alexa Ray, the program serves as a tourism product that is not seasonal or weather dependent, which could help attract people with the ability and resources to travel year-round.

“The SPI economy will benefit from the boost that art and culture tourism provides as a result of the program and its emerging art business entrepreneurs,” Ray said. “And an added bonus of having a thriving artsrelated business community in the city is it enhances the quality of life for residents through shared creative experiences.”

To apply to the Art Business Incubator program, visit https:// tinyurl.com/y2nf2u4t.

BY ALANA HERNANDEZ, Staff writer


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Mobichairs giving those with special needs access to beach this summer

South Padre Island is taking steps to make sure everyone has access to the waves this summer with unique chairs for people with special needs.

They are amphibious wheelchairs that not only gives those with special needs access to the beach, but also a chance to get in the water

"It does float in a little bit of water, you know you don't want to go to deep with it,” said Captain Jim Pigg of South Padre Island Fire Dept. Beach Patrol. “But you just get in the chair, push it out to the beach and have a good time."

Starting with six, the Mobichairs made their first debut on the island several years ago.

Since then, they've been able to add more.

"City council approved it and got a partnership with GLO and found the money in the funding to go forward with it and now we have about eight chairs that we're able to utilize,” Pigg said.

While Mobichairs cost about $1,600 a piece, they are of no charge to anyone who needs them.

Pigg said they're used almost daily and although they have capabilities of handling more Mobichairs, it's finding room to store them that becomes an issue.

"We come into the problem of the space and how much space to keep them,” Pigg said. “They're a very large chair so space becomes an issue."

The availability of the Mobichairs are typically on a first come, first serve basis, but here are times where they are reserved based on special circumstances.

In addition, you can use the Mobichairs for as long as you need them.

If you're looking to use a Mobichair, stop by the third floor of the South Padre Island Fire Dept.

You will need to provide your driver's license, where you are staying, your license plate number and phone number.

For more information, call 956-761-3040.

by Jolanie Martinez, CBS 4 News


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Floating School: Kids explore sea life aboard marine vessel

The Coastal Kids Marine Science Day Camp kicked off Thursday at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Coastal Studies Lab in South Padre Island.

The camp, is taught at the “Ridley floating classroom,” a 57-foot marine vessel fully equipped for research and learning. Children at the camp used plankton nets, trawls, water and sediment samplers and test are given to kids to gain an understanding in the research of marine biology, ecology and human impacts on the marine environment, according to its official website.

At the floating classroom, students were able to interact with sea life by using the onboard touch tanks while being instructed by educator naturalists Mario Molina and Program Manager Shelby Bessette.

“It is important for kids to understand the environment and be able to touch and feel everything out here,” Bessette said. “Teach them about the animals and the impact that every activity they do has.”

The camp has been going on for more than 10 years, and students are able to see sightings of bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and brown pelicans in the Laguna Madre. Onboard, students touched planktons, fishes and shrimp, among others.

“You have to respect the lives of these little animals,” Molina said to the class of more than 10 students. “They deserve to live.”

Students at the camp also had a lunch and watched a video discussion on marine habitats and watersheds, fish printing, hermit crab races, bird watching and water quality testing.

The Coastal Kids Marine Science Day for children ages 7 to 13 takes place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday and Friday in June and July. A similar camp for teens will be held on July 29 and 30 at the same times.

“Our goal is to enhance the understanding of this unique marine environment and inspire stewardship of our coastal natural resources in students of all ages,” the floating classroom’s website states.

For more information about the summer camp, log on to http://utrgv.edu/csl

By Nubia Reyna Staff Writer


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South Padre teams with regional airports to market tourism

South Padre Island’s tourism team is joining with regional airports in a multiyear partnership to market the Island to take advantage of increasing numbers of non-stop flights to the Valley from big American cities.

The South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Wednesday shared marketing buys featuring the CVB and Valley International Airport and Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

“Today, more and more folks are looking at vacation trips online. The legacy carriers still have their online vacation booking engine, others, like Frontier Airlines, partner with larger distributor sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, etc., to ‘bundle’ the airfare with a local hotel to offer a package at a particular destination,” said Jose Mulet, director of air service and business development at Valley International. “The SPI team is just taking advantage of the millions out there that are browsing for a place to vacation at.”

The online advertising appears aimed to capitalizeon increasing numbers of direct flights to the Valley now available from Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas and Houston.

“SPI and VIA are joined at the hip,” said Marv Esterly, director of aviation at Valley International. “The success of one is a true benefit for the other. Our partnership is a winwin situation for all involved including the citizens of the entire RGV.

Rick Kelley


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Early voting to commence

Early voting for the South Padre Island runoff mayoral election will begin on Monday, June 17 and will run through until Tuesday, 25 with the exception of weekends.

The two candidates running for the position are former Assistant City Manager Darla Jones, and Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Patrick McNulty.

City Hall, located on 4601 Padre Blvd., will serve as the polling place on said dates as well as
on Election Day, slated for Saturday, June 29.

The polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. However, for Thursday, June 20 and Tuesday, June 25, the polling hours will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

As previously reported, after Mayor Dennis Stahl announced he was stepping down from the position due to personal reasons, a special election was deemed necessary.

That May 4 special election came and went with initially three candidates on the ballot: the two aforementioned in addition to Clayton Brashear, owner of Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill. Jones received 417 votes, McNulty received 285, and Brashear received 244. The latter was ultimately eliminated from the contest, and because no candidate received a 50 percent plus one of the vote, the runoff election was called for June with only Jones and McNulty on the ballot.

By FREDDY JIMENEZ


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Former nuclear carrier may come to Brownsville

There’s a good chance that the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will be dismantled in Brownsville.

If the former USS Enterprise (CVN-65) does come here, though, it won’t have any nuclear material on board. Robert Berry, vice president of International Shipbreaking/EMR Group at the Port of Brownsville, said the carrier, launched in 1960 and officially decommissioned in 2017, has already been completely defueled.

Still aboard, however, are the ship’s eight reactors plus “radiation-impacted material” — pipes and other components that were exposed to radioactivity and still emit trace amounts, he said. Berry thinks the company has a strong chance of landing the Navy contract to salvage the Enterprise. If that happens, a specially trained team will be in charge of dealing with the radiation-impacted parts, he said.

The Navy is holding a public meeting in Brownsville on June 20 toward preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement related to the disposal of the ship and its reactors. Meetings are also being held at three other sites this month: Newport News, Va., Bremerton, Wash., and Richland, Wash.

Berry outlined multiple potential scenarios: Brownsville won’t get the contract and the dismantling will take place at Newport News, where the ship was built, or else at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. In that case, the Enterprise would be towed from its current berth in Virginia to Washington, entailing a trip around the tip of South America, with the reactor cores being packed up and shipped off to the Hanford Nuclear Site in Richland.

Or the Navy could send CVN-65 to Brownsville for partial dismantling, with the cores being packed up and sent off to Hanford, or complete dismantling could take place in Brownsville, in which the case the cores could be sent to a West Texas nuclear waste site.

Berry thinks Bremerton and Brownsville are realistically the most likely candidates, while noting that towing the carrier from Enterprise from Virginia to Washington State would be quite expensive, a fact highlighted by the General Accounting Office, which determined that the Puget Sound shipyard wouldn’t be able to get to it before 2034.

“Part of what they’re doing is looking at the most economic way to do it,” he said. “In Puget what they do is maintain naval vessels and keep them ready to go out there and stay on the high seas. They stay very busy, and they just have a hard time finding an opening.”

Dismantling the carrier will probably take four to six years, compared to two to three years for a conventional carrier, Berry said.

“Tying up that shipyard for four to six years and making the space to do it is tough,” he said. “That’s the GAO report. That’s not me saying that. We’re able to take two ships the size of that carrier, and have had two ships that size in here before.”

International Shipbreaking/EMR has already dismantled three conventional super carriers: the former USS Constellation, USS Independence and USS Ranger, and will eventually take delivery of the former USS Kitty Hawk, currently mothballed in Bremerton, for scrapping perhaps as early as next year. In the meantime, the Navy is mulling the Enterprise’s final destination.

Scrapping decommissioned warships is in keeping with the Chief of Naval Operations policy on inactive vessels, which requires “disposal by dismantling in order to reduce the Navy’s inactive ship inventory and eliminate costs associated with maintaining the ship in a safe stowage condition.”

Whatever happens, the Navy’s in charge of the current proceedings and will retain ownership of CVN-65 until the last piece is carted away, Berry said, adding that he’ll be in attendance at the June 20 public meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Fort Brownsville Memorial Center, 600 International Blvd.

“The Navy in particular and us too, we want the public’s involvement,” Berry said. “We want them to know what’s going on, and any questions they have, we want to answer them. It’s all about transparency for the Navy and for any contractor that ends up working with the Navy on this.”

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com


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Coast Guard wages battle against illegal fishing boats

In the sun-blasted, wind-riven waters between the South Padre Island jetties and the mouth of the Rio Grande, a different kind of border crossing crisis is playing out.

One side has spotter aircraft, radar and fully crewed patrol craft loaded with the latest technology. The other employs simple 20- to 30-foot boats with outboard motors, capitalizing on speed and a canny sense for beating a tactical retreat.

For Mexican lancha crews fishing illegally in the waters of the United States, low-tech often proves good enough.

In the past five years, U.S. Coast Guard interceptions (visual sighting at sea or by air) and interdictions (stop and seizure) are up. Last year, Coast Guard crews seized 60 vessels which were fishing illegally in U.S. waters.

This year, they’ve already boarded and taken 58.

Move in, retreat

The border between the United States and Mexico doesn’t stop at land’s end. It stretches straight east from where the Rio Grande pours its muddy stream into the Gulf of Mexico for 200 miles to delineate what’s called the Exclusive Economic Zone. North is claimed by the United States and south by Mexico.

Problem is, in Mexico waters, poorly regulated commercial fisheries are playing out.

But there are plenty of fish in the sea just across the border to the north. And that’s where the U.S. Coast Guard and Texas Game Wardens are making their stand.

“From the South Padre Island jetties, it’s about six miles to the river,” said Asst. Sgt. Jason Duke of the Texas Game Wardens. “In our larger boats and everything else, they can see us coming from a long ways out, without radar or anything like that. They just crank their motor and get right back across the border before we can get there.”

In Texas waters, which extend nine miles from shore, the two- to four-man lancha crews fishing illegally primarily target shark, using illegal long lines. But beyond state waters in the federal zone, lancha fishermen are more likely to target prized red snapper, illegally taking up to 780,000 pounds each year, according to a U.S. Coast Guard economic impact study released in 2015.

Long-liners, gill nets

In U.S. waters off Cameron County and in the Rio Grande itself, Texas Game Wardens have seized 84,680 feet of illegal long lines, 15,098 feet of illegal gill nets — both methods are indiscriminate killers —10 crab traps and 224 feet of trotlines.

And that’s just in the past six months.

“Most of the time we’re able to, if they’re setting their long-line gear, we’re able to at least retrieve the gear that was set illegally in our waters and file for destruction orders from a judge and destroy it,” Duke said. “Very rarely do we catch them, because it’s just geography — they’re close to the border and get there before we do, and that’s the end of the game.”

The fishing boats which lose the hide-and-seek game with state and federal enforcement agents are eventually destroyed.

Work boats

Lanchas are quick and seaworthy boats from 20 to 30 feet long, powered by outboard motors from 75 horsepower up to 200 horsepower.

They’re perfect working boats for the gulf and for taking advantage of the fact U.S. law enforcement isn’t allowed to pursue them back into Mexican waters if they’re suspected of fishing illegally.

“Run-of-the-mill commercial fishing boards are a ponga-style boat, some people call it that,” Duke said. “It’s a very standard fishing boat for Mexico and they will put slightly larger engines on them from time to time.”

The lanchas dart into U.S. waters, drop their banned long lines or gill nets, and quickly speed back into the safe embrace of Mexican waters. After five or six hours — enough time for a boatload of sharks, say, to hook themselves — they race back to haul in their catch and again retreat to Mexico.

“The boat design is actually very efficient for cutting through the sea state,” Duke added. “They’re all-weather boats and do a really good job for them and it makes it difficult on us.”

The risks

Danger to game wardens or Coast Guard crews in this cat-and-mouse game on the high seas is always a concern.

Some lanchas aren’t what they appear.

“There is a spillover in the lancha business between the illegal fishery and narcotics smuggling,” Duke said. “So there’s always a risk you’re trying to contact a boat you think is illegally fishing, and he’s actually carrying narcotics.”

Narcotics smugglers can face decades in prison if caught, and can turn to violence in trying to escape, given the stakes. But lancha fishermen pose little threat to U.S. law enforcement officers.

In fact, many individuals may even be familiar, some having been apprehended more than a dozen times. Although their boats are seized, the crew members are returned to Mexico.

“For the most part, the fishermen, they’re never violent, they never pose much of a threat to us or cause us any kind of harm,” Duke said. “But this business is dangerous for us in the sense that we’re out there in the elements and dealing with all of it.

“If we get into a boat chase there’s always the risk of the sea state and everything, incurring an injury or something happening,” he added. “Also, when we’re retrieving their illegal gear, you’re pulling thousand-pound test monofilament and you’re pulling it over the deck, and if you get a really large shark on there, there’s always the risk of hooks in your hand or pulling you overboard.”

Red snapper

Red snapper, highly desirable as table fare, are a difficult fish to attempt to regulate. Inside of nine miles, that is left to Texas fisheries authorities and state law enforcement. But beyond nine miles out to 200 nautical miles, that area known as the Exclusive Economic Zone, federal authorities oversee the fishery.

The species is a lucrative target for illegal fishing by Mexican lancha crews.

The Coast Guard estimates each foray by lanchas into U.S. waters yields on average 800 to 1,200 pounds of red snapper a day for the illegal boats. For larger lanchas, it can be as much as 3,000 pounds of red snapper daily.

So where do these illegally caught red snapper end up?

Probably on your plate.

“Red snapper’s expensive,” Duke said. “You can go to a fish market and look. Most of the stuff they’re poaching out of our waters is coming right back across the border as imports and going to our restaurants and being sold or whatever, so it is a very lucrative business for them.”

Government’s stance

U.S. government agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have long sought to crack down on illegal fishing by Mexican lanchas.

“NOAA has worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and State Department for decades to address concerns related to illegal fishing by Mexican lancha vessels,” John Ewald, director of public affairs for NOAA fisheries, said via email. “Under the direction of the Secretary of Commerce, we identify nations whose fishing vessels engage in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and consult with those nations on improving their fisheries management and enforcement practices.”

In 2015, Mexico was identified as having vessels fishing illegally in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone as well as overfishing of stocks where regulatory authority is shared with the United States. Red snapper was one of the species cited.

“In our 2017 Biennial Report to Congress, Mexico was negatively certified for not taking appropriate corrective action,” Ewald added. “This triggered port denials of Mexican flagged fishing vessels from U.S. ports in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Ewald said the federal government continues to work with Mexican officials in the administration of new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in an attempt to address the longstanding concerns about illegal fishing in U.S. waters. He said the results of this effort will be detailed in NOAA’s upcoming 2019 Biennial Report to Congress.

He said NOAA was hopeful that, with a new Mexican administration in place, progress on curbing illegal fishing will be realized after decades of frustration.

“Mexico has begun taking legal action against Mexican lanchas caught fishing illegally in U.S. waters,” he said. “This is a significant step forward, and indicates that this approach may provide an effective and lasting solution.”

WHAT ARE LAUNCHES:

20-30 feet with single 75- to 200-horsepower outboard engines

Fiberglas or wood hull

Typical crew is two to four persons

Utilizes gill nets, long-line and hand-line gear to catch target species, primarily red snapper and shark

U.S. fishery impact (2015)

Around 1,130 lancha incursions annually

Typical catch is 800 to 1,200 pounds per day

780,000 pounds of red snapper poached annually

Source: Eighth Coast Guard District, headquartered in New Orleans

Seizures since Nov. 1

Long lines (feet) — 84,680

Gill nets (feet) — 15,098

Crab traps — 10

Trotlines — 224

Source: Texas Game Wardens operating in Cameron County waters

Coast Guard lancha numbers

Interceptions Interdictions

2019 N/A 58

2018 140 60

2017 111 31

2016 141 45

2015 160 40

Note: “Interceptions” designates when surface or air assets come into visual contact with an illegal fishing vessel; “interdictions” indicates a vessel stop and seizure

Source: U.S. Coast Guard


Rick Kelley
 -
May 25, 2019


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FHA Commissioner: New Rules Coming to Ease Condo Policies

Federal Housing Administration Commissioner Brian Montgomery said that the agency will be finalizing new condo policies—long-awaited by the real estate industry--that could lift some restrictions and streamline processes to give a boost to the condo sector. Montgomery said that condos represent an opportunity to help boost affordable housing for first-time homeowners and seniors.

“We anticipate that the updated regulations will be more flexible, less prescriptive, and more reflective of the current market than existing provisions,” Montgomery told a crowd during last week’s 2019 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. “It may also include single-unit approvals for loans that meet HUD standards for unapproved projects, allowing HUD to set the specific percentage.”

A final rule is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget.

The National Association of REALTORS® has supported revisions to the FHA’s current condo policies, including allowing owner-occupancy level determination on a case-by-case basis, granting up to 45% commercial space without documentation, and including a five-year approval period for project certification.

The FHA issued proposed changes to its condo rules in 2016 to lift several restrictions within the sector. However, the proposed rules were never finalized. Last year, 174 members of Congress signed a letter to Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson urging him to approve a proposal, a call that has grown louder by other housing groups over the year.

“Affordability is an enormous challenge in many markets across the country,” Montgomery acknowledged during the conference. “Large constraints on the housing market by regulations have exacerbated the shortage for hard-working families who are employed and willing to buy but continue to be priced out. The good news is that in today’s economy we have job growth, low unemployment, and wage gains that have provided an additional shot in the arm.”

Montgomery pointed to overregulation and zoning laws as contributing to housing affordability and accessibility issues.

“The combination of regulatory overreach and an aging housing stock has meant not enough affordable units are left—or, worse, being built,” Montgomery said. “Zoning, environmental, and sometimes labor restrictions have made it more difficult for areas across the country to meet the growing [housing] demand. We will need continued wage and economic growth and regulatory reform to mitigate affordability constraints. This will also require that not just HUD but states and localities ease the regulatory burden and other impediments to development.”

 


Source: 
National Association of REALTORS®
 


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