City Council Continues to Make Affordable Housing a Priority

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg makes introductory remarks at the first Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force meeting at San Antonio Central Library.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg makes introductory remarks at the first Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force meeting in October 2017.

A year ago, City Council accepted the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force report and approved its recommendations.

Since that vote, we have made significant progress toward achieving those recommendations, which were designed to ensure an adequate stock of affordable housing in San Antonio and strengthen the coordinated housing system. 

When I appointed the task force in 2017 to pursue a comprehensive and compassionate policy, the goal was to get ahead of the ongoing trend of increased housing costs before it became a full-blown crisis in our city. Under the leadership of Chair Lourdes Castro Ramirez, the task force spent a year studying the problem and gathering input from experts and the community.  

The report, which found that San Antonio is experiencing more severe housing insecurity and affordability challenges than ever before, became a template for addressing affordable housing and the National League of Cities used it to help develop its own affordable housing task force recommendations.   

Housing prices continue to increase, but we now have a plan for adding affordable units to the city’s housing stock, a structure for ensuring that housing does not fall through the cracks in the future and for addressing displacement and other issues caused by rising housing costs and property values. 

Housing was a priority in the City’s 2019 budget, which included $25 million for housing, and I am proud to report that the momentum will continue.

Following the task force report’s guidelines, we are now hard at work implementing the panel’s proposals and taking concrete action to make affordable housing more available. 

For the first time in years, thousands of affordable housing units are in the pipeline. More than 4,400 units were incentivized in the current fiscal year, mostly through housing tax credits. 

The Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing committee is meeting regularly to evaluate the Uniform Development Code and eliminate bureaucratic regulations that serve as a roadblock to housing development. The panel also is exploring other tools to encourage and increase the development of affordable housing for families. 

We’ve explored creating a committee to look at form-based code and by-right zoning, but it’s evident we need to start with the review of the UDC first.

The San Antonio Housing Trust assessment will recommend organizational and programmatic changes for consideration when finalized, and the Housing Commission meets monthly to oversee how city staff is implementing the MHPTF report and discuss ways to provide housing access for the most vulnerable in our community.

The Risk Mitigation Fund was created to provide support and assistance to families that are forced to move from their homes and experiencing unexpected emergency situations.

Additionally, several policies are being developed to help prevent displacement with the help of community-based organizations and national technical support through the ForEveryoneHome Initiative. 

The City’s participation in the Local Housing Solutions Institute will aid in all of these efforts.

Our work must continue until all families have the opportunity to live with dignity and thrive in their communities. Too many San Antonio families remain burdened by housing costs, and the situation is a drag on all sectors of our economy.

Families stressed by housing prices are spending less on food and other services.  

The City’s 2020 budget, which will be voted on next week, is robust. The budget includes numerous housing initiatives planned for the coming year and an additional $13 million.

We are taking concrete action to ensure that our housing system will truly be coordinated as we move forward. I’m excited that we will finally have a chief housing officer in the City to advance our city’s housing goals and coordinate the housing system.

The 2020 budget focuses both on new housing production and owner occupied rehabilitation as well. Owner occupied rehabilitation is an important part of preventing displacement.

Earlier this year through the efforts of Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales and the support of the Comprehensive Planning Committee, City staff agreed to accelerate the launch of a task force-recommended displacement prevention study that will guide policy. Recommendations resulting from the analysis will be implemented next year.   

While I am pleased with our progress on housing, we still have a long way to go. I am dedicated to continuing the effort. 

A coordinated housing structure has many moving parts and requires full-time focus. We are finally on the cusp of making that dream a reality.

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