Residents fight construction of low-income duplexes

By Courtney Gilmore - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Residents in one neighborhood are trying to stop duplexes from being built near their homes.

The Meyerland Community Improvement Association held a meeting Wednesday night, and it was full of outspoken residents.

The Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services plans to build four duplex units on the property of St. John's Presbyterian Church, located at 5020 W. Bellfort.

According to a letter sent out to residents of Meyerland, "The plan is to utilize the undeveloped property belonging to the church for the construction and operation of residences for single parents and their children. This particular program will focus on single parents who have limited education or job skills."

Meyerland is one of Houston's oldest deed-restricted neighborhoods. Even though some residents live right across the street from St. John's Presbyterian Church, the church's property does not sit inside Meyerland's boundary lines. Therefore, the church is not subject to the neighborhoods restrictions.

The Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services, along with St. John's, held the meeting with residents as a courtesy to answer any questions and receive feedback.

"I don't feel like our questions were answered," said Trey Stafford, who has lived in Meyerland with his family for four years. "Many of us have concerns about this project. We worry about security and our property value going down."

"The property will be secure," said John Burnham, who is the pastor of St. John's Presbyterian Church. "When we stand before our maker, are we going to primarily be concerned about our property values or our values for showing support for the poor? I have lived in Meyerland for five years and I know of several residents who are for the housing program because they see the need and desire to show compassion."

Some residents said they are all for helping people, but they don't want that to potentially cause their quality of life to be decreased.

"People are just concerned about what could possibly happen, the cause and effect. Everybody wants to help people," said Stafford. "When you think about single parents with low incomes, they usually come from troubled backgrounds."

According Dr. Ed Knight, the president of Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services, there will be security cameras on the new property along with a security gate.

"We will go through a selective process to choose each mother for the program. The evaluation will include a criminal background check. Each parent will have take classes to continue their education, have counseling, day care, job assistance and supervised living," said Knight.

The project will have seven single-parent units and on office/on-site staff housing unit. Construction will start in 2013.

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