By: Houston City Council Member Dwight Boykins, District D
Sunnyside is a historic community; however, over the years, there has been a lack of infrastructure and economic development, with many residents feeling as though the area has been underserved and overlooked. As a youth growing up in neighboring South Union, I can attest to the lack of community amenities and resources available to residents of the area, both then and now, including quality grocery stores, full-scale parks, and affordable single-family homes.
As a life-long resident of District D, I have witnessed the transition of many neighborhoods – from blighted pockets within the city to high-profile, highly desirable residential neighborhoods. And there is a common thread that is interwoven amongst each neighborhood – they are all neighborhoods of opportunity. This is precisely how we can describe Sunnyside and its future – Sunnyside is a neighborhood of opportunity. As elected officials, community leaders and stakeholders, and involved residents, it is within our power to increase the level of opportunity that exists to make Sunnyside what we know it has the potential to become.
When I was elected as the District D Council Member, I made a commitment to bring a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) to Sunnyside, in order to revitalize and bring much needed resources to the community. I worked directly with former Mayor Annise Parker to initiate the process and continued my efforts with Mayor Sylvester Turner. When it was presented to City Council, my colleagues voted unanimously to approve the creation of TIRZ#26 (Sunnyside Zone) and confirm the Board of Directors. With the recent discussions on the value and need of TIRZs, the Sunnyside TIRZ is a prime example of how tax dollars are needed within the community, in order to revitalize and improve upon the “shabby strip centers, weather-worn homes and overgrown vacant lots…” [see Publication: Houston Chronicle; Date: Sep 24, 2016; Section: Business; Page: B1; Development: Sunnyside’s Twilight].
The investments from the property tax revenue will aid in transforming the community for the current residents who have spent their lives within these boundaries, and for those new residents who welcome the opportunity to live in a neighborhood on the rise and in close proximity to prime areas, such as Downtown Houston, the Texas Medical Center, and Hobby Airport. Current residents of Sunnyside look for and deserve the same amenities and public services that each of us at City Hall and across the city of Houston have and enjoy.
It is a privilege to have the responsibility that comes with being a member of City Council and I take my role as an advocate seriously. I have heard the cries for help from the residents of Sunnyside and have worked to address some of the most pressing concerns. I allocated over $100,000 to the Houston Police Department – South Central Division for overtime patrol and hard-target enforcement. I allocated an additional $25,000 for mounted patrol of the local park during peak after-school hours. In addition, I allocated funds to the Department of Neighborhoods for a District D representative who will focus their time on mowing weeded and abandoned lots, specifically within our communities. Constituents can call my office to request a District D “No Illegal Dumping” sign be placed in an area experiencing illegal dumping. I am currently coordinating with the Houston Health Department – Area Agency on Aging to allocate funds for minor home repairs for District D senior citizens, many who live within Sunnyside and South Park. The City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department has also opened up the list for the Minor Critical Emergency Home Repair Program, which provides assistance to elderly or disabled households with incomes below 120% of the AMI.
The prevalence of affordable, multi-family housing units within Sunnyside and other historically low-income communities is an issue that must be effectively addressed. As the current City Council Member, I routinely receive notices of developers who intend to build multi-family units within the District. I make it no secret that I, and the constituents that I represent, want to see more quality, affordable, single-family homes. With the aid and expertise of the Housing and Community Development Department, the goal is to continue targeting blighted properties that can be revitalized through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and transformed into affordable homes.
Sunnyside is on the rise and there is a great deal of work that is happening both at City Hall and within the community to address concerns. To ensure that residents remain informed about our progress, I am hosting a community town hall on “The State of Sunnyside: Our Vision for the Future.” It will be held on Monday, October 24th from 6pm – 8pm at Greater Grace Outreach Church, located at 10800 Scott St., 77047. Attendees will hear from the newly formed TIRZ Board Members, HPD, representatives from City Departments, and a Neighborhood Master Plan consultant. There will also be resource tables for home repair assistance and legal aid. I encourage all those who are able to attend to do so. We want to hear your voice as we move forward with a shared vision for the future of Sunnyside.