One hundred and fifty million dollars for affordable housing in San Antonio took a big step towards being realized Wednesday night, when the Housing Bond Committee approved the populations and programs the city should target with funds. The final bond ballot language for next May’s election will be determined in part from committee recommendations, city staff, and community feedback in the next two months.
The vote concludes a two-month, four-meeting, deliberation that both aired animosity over the city’s past investments in high-priced developments, as well as hopes to direct millions to create affordable housing and maintain the city’s older housing stock.
“I feel it went fantastic. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we got our big aims,” said Richard Acosta, board member and president of My City is My Home, a nonprofit helping people with housing.
San Antonio Housing Bond Committee short on time and — for some — short on trust
San Antonio has never been able to directly invest in housing with bond dollars before. In 2017 it used $20 million of the bond to buy property to be used to create housing in low-income areas. San Antonio voted to approve changes to the city’s charter to allow the housing bond earlier this year. Housing is just a small portion of the $1.2 billion bond, which is essentially a detailed list of how the city will use its credit card the next five years.
The 32-member bond committee tentatively approved $85 million for projects and programs that make up to 30% of the area median income (AMI) level. In San Antonio that is a family of four making less than $22,000 a year.
“If you make less than $1,500 a month in San Antonio, more than likely you’re gonna have to go to homeless services,” said Acosta.
If approved by council, $45 million will go toward renovating and preserving homes owned by people who can’t afford upkeep, targeting homeowners at 50% AMI but prioritizing 30% AMI. The funding comes at a time the city has received increased criticism of its use of code enforcement and how it has vacated people from their homes at a much higher rate than other major cities, a charge the city has denied.
Another $40 million will go towards rental unit preservation and rehabilitation that serve the 30% income level. This income level will largely be served through rental units that will be maintained or created with the bond dollars.
Not everyone thought the narrowing of funding to serve just 30% was a good thing though and could make it more difficult to address the housing need.
“I think in some cases, it made it harder,” said Jennifer Gonzalez, bond committee member and executive director of Alamo Community Group — a nonprofit builder of affordable housing. “It really narrowed the scope.”
City figures show their is great need for people making this amount of money, but …….