Houston Candidates Talk Affordable Housing, Small Business at Forum

Houston’s 30 candidates for elected office took the stage Saturday to address voters, two days before early voting begins in the Nov. 7 election.

The forum, held at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, featured eight candidates for mayor, four for supervisor and 18 candidates for at-large seats on the Houston City Council. Hosted by the Houston alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and other local organizations, the event focused on some key issues, including public safety, affordable housing and the budget.

Here are three takeaways from the forum.

Candidates offer ideas for increasing affordable housing and fighting homelessness

Several questions to the Mayor and At-Large 3 candidates focused on Houston’s affordable housing shortage and the programs they would implement to continue reducing homelessness in the city.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, one of the main mayoral candidates, cited her previous work to bring affordable housing to Houston and said public-private partnerships are essential to making those projects happen. He said he would meet with residents and civic clubs to determine which projects might be best suited for a neighborhood.

“There should be multi-family housing where the neighbors want it, and more single-family housing where the neighbors want it,” he said.

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State Sen. John Whitmire, who polls show as Jackson Lee’s main challenger in the mayoral race, did not attend the forum.

Robin Williams and David Lowy each said Texas needs rent control policies to limit how much landlords can raise tenants’ rents.

At-Large 3 candidate Ericka McCrutcheon said having more affordable housing would limit evictions.

“If we can stem the flow of that, we can prevent people from taking to the streets,” he said.

At-Large 3 candidate Twila Carter said the city needs to do more to accurately count the number of homeless people in Houston. He also proposed an outreach program to serve them.

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At-Large 3 candidate Ethan Michelle Ganz and mayoral candidates Lee Kaplan, Jackson Lee, Lowe and Williams emphasized the need for better access to mental health, substance abuse treatment and other services.

“You can’t [only] give people a roof over their heads,” Kaplan said.

City Council candidates promise to support small businesses

The five candidates for At-Large 1 offered a variety of ideas to support small businesses in Houston.

Leah Wolfthal said the city needs to focus on making its neighborhoods safe and clean so small businesses can thrive. He also suggested reaching out to entrepreneurs to help them through the process of starting a small business.

Kendall Baker said he would review the city’s permit office to determine if it could work better and promised to establish a separate office for entrepreneurs.

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“I plan to be your small business champion,” he said.

Eric Glenn, Melanie Miles and Julian Ramirez also said the city needs to do more to ensure that small businesses have the same opportunities to succeed as larger companies.

Comptroller candidates promise to make the budget more affordable

The four supervisor candidates acknowledged that the city’s annual financial report is difficult for most voters. They promised to simplify it for the public.

“You don’t want to read a 400-page report,” said candidate Dave Martin, the current mayor and District E councilman. “You want a one-page document.”

Former City Councilman Orlando Sanchez said he put Harris County’s checkbook online while serving as Harris County treasurer. Martin said he helped the city create a website where residents can get information about the budget.

Chris Hollins said he will use his experience as Harris County clerk in 2020 to present the budget to residents “in a way that makes sense.” Current Deputy Superintendent Shannan Nobles said she will meet with community members and provide virtual updates to explain the budget.

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