QUESTION: How nutritious is the food in county jails?

ANSWER: Jails are required by law to serve nutritious meals, and they are monitored for compliance.

State law says, “Except in emergency situations, meals shall be served in accordance with a written menu approved and reviewed annually for compliance with nationally recognized allowances for basic nutrition including nutritional requirements of known pregnant inmates. This approval and review shall be documented and should be performed by a licensed or provisional licensed dietitian.”

The yearly inspections conducted at county jails then check to be sure facilities have the required menu with a dietitian’s approval. Inspections also check to be sure that the food being served matches the menu.

Q: In the Tuesday, April 9, edition of the paper, there’s an article about the Hickory Trails senior apartments that will be opening. It said five of the apartments will be rented at market value. I was curious why these apartments are being rented at market value.

A: For the sake of review, Missouri-based Four Corners Development is tackling two projects in Longview: a renovation of the former Weaver Building at Methvin and Green streets into Heritage Tower, with 35 rent and income restricted apartments for people ages 55 and older; and the new Hickory Trails, off Page Road and Loop 281, for people ages 62 and older.

You noticed that the story about Hickory Trails said it would consist of 45 units, with five at market rates. (That means 40 of them would have rent and income restrictions.)

I tried multiple times to speak to someone at Four Corners to get a specific explanation as to this mix of apartments, but I was unsuccessful. So, I can speak generally about how the program that helped make these projects possible works.

In Texas, the developer applies for federal income tax credits through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. That’s a competitive process that includes a scoring system that considers the percentage of income-and rent-restricted units a development will have. Here’s a description of those requirements from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs website:

“Each development must include a minimum percentage of units to be set aside for eligible low-income tenants. The rent charged for these units is restricted according to federal guidelines which correspond to the household’s income level.

While rental rates are restricted, they are not subsidized (i.e., Section 8 housing)... A low-income housing development will be eligible to apply for housing tax credits if it meets either of the following criteria:

“a) Twenty percent or more of the residential units in the project are both rent restricted and occupied by individuals whose income is 50% or less of Area Median Family Income (AMFI);

“b) Forty percent or more of the residential units in the project are rent restricted and occupied by individuals whose income is 60% or less of AMFI.

“Housing tax credits may only be claimed for the affordable units that have been set aside for participation under the program. Although a developer only needs to set aside a minimum of 20% of a project’s units for qualified tenants, applicants will typically set aside between 60% and 100% of the units for scoring purposes and to claim a higher amount of housing tax credits.”

Agency spokeswoman Kristina Tirloni said some developers intentionally build a mixed-income property for people who are low-income and some who are not.

Regardless, if they meet the required percentage of units with income and rent restrictions, developers can choose to rent the remaining units at market rates.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.