San Antonio’s citywide discussion on housing, which centers on a 71-page strategy five years in the making, resumes tonight at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
The draft of the strategy, called the Strategic Housing Implementation Plan, was released to the public on Nov. 1. Since then, a variety of housing advocacy groups have offered a range of feedback in the form of suggestions for tweaks here and there to harsh criticism, saying the plan doesn’t do enough to address San Antonio’s housing needs.
In short, the SHIP document says there are 95,000 cost-burdened households in San Antonio, meaning they spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. The document offers up 36 strategies that target those households, from the production and rehab of homes and apartments, to the addition of more housing vouchers (or similar mechanisms) in San Antonio, to increasing wages most notably through the SA: Ready to Work program.
Among the critics is the Tier 1 Neighborhood Coalition, a collection of neighborhood associations across San Antonio, which is concerned that the word “affordable” is absent from key language within the document, potentially opening the door for for-profit developers to take advantage of what is supposed to be an affordable housing plan.
The coalition has also criticized the city’s public engagement process for the SHIP document, saying housing officials stumbled out of the gate in seeking feedback on the highly technical plan. In response, the city’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department extended the public feedback period by a week, and added another public meeting. Here are the details:
Strategic Housing Implementation Plan (SHIP)
» Meeting 4: 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, Mission Branch Library, 3134 Roosevelt Ave.
» The city has extended the public comment period to Monday, Dec. 6. (Scroll down for feedback methods.)
» The date the City Council was scheduled to adopt the plan has been moved from Dec. 2 to Dec. 16.
[ Related: San Antonio’s complex housing strategy met with criticism over transparency | Nov. 4, 2021 ]
Meanwhile, in a separate set of meetings, yet interlocked with the SHIP, the housing bond committee, which will decide in what ways a proposed $150 million in municipal bond dollars should be spent on San Antonio’s housing needs, resumes tonight.
» Meeting 2: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, 900 E. Market St.
» Meeting 3: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, 900 E. Market St.
Free parking at the Convention Center Parking Garage, 41 Bowie St.
Ways to engage
The city’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department is receiving feedback on the SHIP via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s where residents can also pick up paper surveys and SHIP materials:
» NHSD office, 1440 S. Flores St.
» Financial & Housing Recovery Center, 600 Soledad St.
During the City Council’s Planning and Community Development Committee on Monday, District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo asked NHSD Assistant Director Ian Benavidez how the department would incorporate citizen feedback into the document.
Benavidez said not every comment would lead to a change, but that some changes would be made and noted in the draft NHSD sends to the City Council for consideration.
Not enough ‘affordable’ language
For a document that’s supposed to address San Antonio’s affordable housing needs, there isn’t enough use of the word “affordable” in the document, says the Tier 1 Neighborhood Coalition.
For example, on Page 13, the SHIP document begins to list 36 strategies for tackling affordable housing in San Antonio. A goal header reads, “Develop a coordinated housing system.” Under the header are several bullet-point strategies such as, “Develop a one-stop housing shop.”
“If you don’t have affordable in the title and in the bullet points, below that it would read as though this is for all types of housing,” said Bianca Maldonado, a member of the Tier 1 steering committee and resident of the Monticello Park neighborhood. “And we know all too often that the city has developed programs for housing, but not necessarily affordable housing. There is a huge need for deep affordable housing, so why would you not put that (affordable language) throughout the document?”
At the council’s Planning and Community Development Committee, Benavidez told council members that Tier 1’s suggestions would be incorporated into the SHIP draft.
“Our intention when drafting the document was to make sure that it is an affordable housing plan, and things like the coordinated housing system … were focussed on that,” Benavidez said. “If that wasn’t clear, those are changes we definitely need to make.”
At the meeting, Cynthia Spielman, another member of the Tier 1 steering committee and one of 80 community stakeholders who helped shape the SHIP document, referenced the coalitions’s 2019 fight against the practice of building several multi-story condos on lots traditionally meant for single-family homes. That year, the City Council approved changes to the Unified Development Code, or UDC, which is the city’s set of laws and guidelines, limiting the height of condo clusters.
[ Related: “Council approves zoning rules to help preserve neighborhood character” | Dec. 12, 2019 ]
The city has been exploring ways to update the UDC to allow or encourage more affordable housing production, which the city now defines as housing for families who make 60% of the area median income, or AMI.
[ Scroll down for a chart showing AMI levels. ]
[ Related: “What is ‘affordable housing’ in San Antonio? City Council to consider adopting this definition” | Aug. 11, 2011 ]
But in the SHIP document, the language reads, “Update the Unified Development Code to remove barriers to housing production and preservation.”
Spielman said she and others fear “removing barriers” language, without specifying affordable housing, could allow for the type of development Tier 1 says ruins the character of neighborhoods.
“Housing production is anything from affordable homes to six, four-story condos stuck on a lot in the middle of a single family home (lot) starting at $500,000 a piece,” Spielman told council members. “That kind of development destabilizes our neighborhoods. It creates an environment where our land is more expensive than the homes. Investors buy the homes, they let them decay, they tear them down, and then they put up these kinds of structures. We would really like to see this idea of ‘removing barriers to affordable housing’.”
By the numbers
As you peruse the SHIP document, here are some key points.
This many households make less than 30 percent of the area median income, or AMI, and comprise the largest segment of the 95,000 overall goal. In the San Antonio-New Braunfels region, 30 percent AMI is defined as $22,230 for a family of four.
[ For more on AMI, a debate onto itself, read “San Antonio-New Braunfels median income rises to $74,100. Here’s why it matters.” ]
This is how much the 95,000 household goal over the next 10 years will cost.
The city estimates it will contribute $1 billion in funding, through sources either it or other local entities can access—including the $150 million bond from 2022-2027 (assuming voters pass it) and another $150 million in the 2027-2032 bond.
The remaining $2.3 billion, the city says, comes from funding sources outside its control, which the developer will access, such as conventional bank loans, private activity bonds, and federal programs, such as low-income housing tax credits.
“Those projects are almost completed before they come to us for final layer funding,” Benavidez said in an interview.
The is the number of single-family homes or apartments the city wants to produce or preserve over the next 10 years. This number includes 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing, which is housing for homeless people who cannot house themselves because of mental illness or other barriers.
Here’s how the rest of the 95,000 overall goal breaks down:
» 23,798: The number of vouchers or similar-type assistance give to help households meet their monthly housing costs.
» 17,210: The number of people those wages the city wants to boost through workforce housing programs.
» 25,898: The number of below-market housing units built by developers or that will become affordable as newer housing stock is built over time.
2021 Area Median Income
|1 person||2 person||3 person||4 person||5 person||6 person|
|Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development|