Five years after Mayor Ron Nirenberg convened a task force to tackle housing affordability in San Antonio, the city unveiled earlier this week its Strategic Housing Incentive Plan, or SHIP—a 71-page document filled with analysis and potential solutions meant to aid 95,000 local households who are struggling with housing costs.
Since it was unveiled on Monday, the report has been met with criticism from housing and neighborhood groups who question the city’s public input process in drafting the document.
These issues are being debated amid a flurry of public meetings as the city begins to engage the public on its 1) SHIP document and 2) the city’s first $150 million housing bond—both happening this month and next, both having to be wrapped up by year’s end.
In short, the city’s has identified 95,000 households in San Antonio as being cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing costs. The city’s SHIP document contains 36 strategies that address the production or rehabilitation of homes and apartments, the infusion of more housing vouchers into the population, and the increasing of wages through a variety of workforce housing programs, most notably the SA: Ready to Work program.
The city is currently seeking public input on the SHIP document.
The next meeting is 6 p.m. tonight, Nov. 4, at St. Philip’s College, 1801 Martin Luther King Dr. Visit this link for information on how to participate virtually.
Separately, the housing bond public input process began last night with the first of three bond committee meetings taking place at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center—when the main topic of conversation was the SHIP. The $150 housing bond, which voters will decide on in May, is one of several funding sources the city has identified to help execute the SHIP. Unlike other parts of the $1.3 billion 2022-2027 bond program, which include large-scale capital projects such as rebuilding streets, fixing drainage, and adding new libraries and parks, voters will not be asked to approve specific housing projects. Instead, they will be asked to approve housing strategies—how exactly the money will be spent will be decided later.
Criticism over process
Earlier this week, the Tier 1 Neighborhood Coalition, a collection of neighborhood associations that span the city, sent a letter to City Council members criticizing the city’s public participation process in crafting the SHIP. To Tier 1’s point, the SHIP document was released on Monday, the same day as its first public meeting, leaving little time for those who attended the meeting to read its 71 pages and give feedback.
“It should be reiterated that the most vulnerable populations who need to know whether or not they are included in the Strategic Housing Implementation Plan, and who deserve a voice in this policy, need accessible engagement and outreach,” the letter reads.
Strategic Housing Implementation Plan
» Meeting 2: 6-7 p.m. tonight, Nov. 4, St. Philip’s College, 1801 Martin Luther King Dr.
» Meeting 3: 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, Igo Library, 13330 Kyle Seale Pkwy
2022-2027 Housing Bond
» 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.
At the SHIP meeting on Monday, Ian Benavidez, assistant director of the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department (NHSD), defended the public engagement process. He pointed to the multitude of meetings of the Housing Commission, various City Council subcommittees, and others, where specific aspects of the SHIP were discussed. The city also cites four subcommittees it gathered in August composed of 80 community members.
“We felt that this public engage period is adequate if you factor in all of the other public engagement we’ve done up to this point,” Benavidez said. “Having said that, we recognize that the document is very large, and if you wanted to read through it and provide substantive comments, you might need more time.”
With that, city officials announced they’d add another week of public comment, until Nov. 22, before the document is forwarded to the City Council in early December for approval.
But Tier 1 says what’s been lacking is a forum where the SHIP, and the SHIP alone, can be discussed, and where the public at large is invited, instead of a select few serving on closed subcommittees.
To add to that, NHSD officials say the original released of the SHIP draft was delayed because of the subcommittee meetings in August, and because it spent September and October developing a summary of the SHIP document that give the public another option in which to review its findings, rather than force people read all 71 pages.
NHSD was also scolded for holding the first meeting on the West Side during Día de los Muertos.
“Today is also Day of the Dead and this neighborhood participates in that,” Leticia Sanchez, co-chair of the Historic Westside Residents Association, told Benavidez at the meeting. “So, a couple of our members are here, but you’re not engaging in our community.”
Benavidez admitted NHSD made a mistake in scheduling its West Side meeting during Día de los Muertos.
At a City Council meeting on Wednesday, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston described the SHIP document as a roadmap, a framework with updated housing targets—as opposed to policy—when some council members expressed concern, after reading Tier 1’s letter, that an adequate public process was not being followed.
Currently, the city is asking members of the public to sign up for future discussions on one, or more, of the SHIP’s 36 strategies—each one of which will go through the city’s SASpeakUp public engagement process.
By the numbers
Admittedly, we are still combing through the SHIP document and its 36 strategies. In the coming weeks, we’ll hone in on specific issues from its 71 pages.
Today, here are some key points you should be aware of as you peruse the document.
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.
[ Scroll down for a chart showing AMI levels. ]
[ 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.