San Antonio’s Daring New Policies for Affordable Housing

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Affordable housing is hard to find after home prices surged 25% in the past five years in San Antonio (64% Latino), the San Antonio Express-News reports.

About 165,000 people in San Antonio are “overburdened” with housing expenses. They spend more than 30% of their income on rent, mortgage payments, and other costs associated with housing, such as electricity, according to The Rivard Report.

This is a threat to a city expected to grow by a million people in the next 20 years.

“Just like water, energy and transportation policy, we have to make investments in housing in order to spur inclusive development that delivers prosperity for our entire community,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

How is the city tackling housing?

San Antonio OKs Policy Framework, Funding for Affordable Housing

In September 2018, the San Antonio City Council approved a new affordable housing policy framework, developed by the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force.

The framework recommends “a ‘one-stop’ housing center, add an executive position in the city manager’s office to oversee housing, increase funding for payment assistance and housing rehabilitation programs, incentivize developers who build low-income housing, provide displacement assistance, change the City charter to allow bond money to be used for housing construction, and address fees and restrictive zoning rules,” according to The Rivard Report.

Two months later, the City Council voted to start funding that framework.

Affordable housing“The City’s budget was $8 million for housing last year, almost one-third of the $25.1 million proposed for 2019,” wrote Iris Dimmick in The Rivard Report in November 2018.

The fund already are having an effect.

According to an update from The Rivard Report:

  • The city is adding more staff and resources to its Neighborhood and Housing Services Department.
  • The city has hired a consultant to help recruit its first “housing administrator” to oversee the forthcoming coordinated housing system.
  • The city is poised to fix 81 homes for qualifying low-income residents thanks to a $5.2 million funding boost. Last year, 21 homes received funding through the city’s Owner Occupied Rehabilitation program.
  • The homebuyer assistance program approved or pre-approved 24 loans for low-income residents looking to purchase a home so far. The goal is 265 more loans.
  • Hundreds have applied for home rehabilitation; 57 have qualified thus far, 10 shy of the two-month goal.

City Expands Housing Incentive Policy for Affordable Housing

The San Antonio City Council in December 2018 approved changes to two downtown development incentive programs to feature a greater emphasis on creating affordable housing, according to The Rivard Report.

Nirenberg paused the programs in 2017 after claims they weren’t delivering affordable options.

One program, the Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP), will be expanded to regional centers across the city.

CCHIP aims to give developers “tax abatements, fee waivers and and low-interest, forgivable loans as incentives to spur housing construction in the city,” according to The Rivard Report. Here are CCHIP changes based on tier and location:

  • Tier 1 will cover everywhere within .91 miles of the Central Business District and provide maximum incentives to projects including an affordability component.
  • Tier 2 will require 10 percent of units committed to families making 60 percent of area median income (AMI) and 10 percent committed to families making 80 percent of AMI or be above five stories.
  • Tier 3 will require 20 percent of units committed to families making 60 percent of AMI and be limited to the 13 regional centers and VIA transportation corridors.

The other program, the Inner City Reinvestment and Infill Policy (ICRIP), will be expanded citywide. It’s now called the City of San Antonio Fee Waiver Program.

“[The change] will allow us to access more waivers and increase the number of affordable home ownership opportunities we can provide in 2019,” said Natalie Griffith, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio, in an op-ed in The Rivard Report. “[The change] will immediately help facilitate more affordable housing, and it will help Habitat continue – and possibly increase – our work, which provides a permanent affordable housing solution.”

Examples of New Affordable Housing Options in San Antonio

For years, City Council Member Shirley Gonzales has pushed to help residents find better, more affordable homes to live in.

“Having people here is the main point and to do that we needed something to address housing,” Gonzales has said. “That means we needed something to address public housing, affordable housing for every sector—single-family, multi-family.

“We need people to live here and to stay here.”

Labor 100
An artist rendering of 100 Labor in San Antonio, which will have affordable units (via KSAT-TV).

Now a new high-end apartment complex—with affordable units—is coming to Downtown San Antonio.

The complex, 100 Labor, is part of a plan to revitalize the Victoria Courts Common area near Hemisphere Park, according to a KSAT-TV report.

While market rent would be as much as $1,800 a month per unit, the San Antonio Housing Authority worked to ensure that 20% of the units are reserved for affordable housing, with rent around $500 to $700 a month.

“There are lots of folks that are waiters, restaurant managers in the service industry downtown, and you can’t find quality affordable housing downtown,” Tim Alcott of the housing authority, told KSAT.

Another affordable development is in the works.

San Pedro Creek Lofts
An artist rendering of the San Pedro Creek Lofts, which will have affordable units (via the NRP Group).

A city historic panel gave approval to the 320-unit San Pedro Creek Lofts apartment complex in January 2019 160 units are income-restricted.

The city and the developer reached a unique incentive agreement, according to the San Antonio Express-News:

The San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corp., a nonprofit run by five City Council members that aims to create affordable housing, received an application from NRP to partner on the complex’s construction, according to its May agenda.

The city nonprofit has been using a complex deal structure allowed under state law to encourage affordable housing in partnerships with NRP and other developers.

Under these deals, the city nonprofit buys the land the complexes are built on, so the developers don’t have to pay property taxes and sales taxes on purchases made for their construction. The nonprofit also takes a small ownership stake in the complexes.

In return, developers agree to rent half the units to tenants making up to 80 percent — or, in some cases, 60 percent — of San Antonio’s median household income, which is about $49,000.

Construction is expected to start in summer 2019.

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