Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
Mayor Ron Nirenberg's Housing Policy Task Force will present a list of suggested policies, goals, and actions to City Council next week aimed at addressing the disconnect between San Antonio's housing market and residents' needs.
Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4)
and his colleagues who sit on the City Council's Comprehensive Plan Committee received an update on the task force's progress Monday, and Saldaña said he's hoping the task force will "ask us to do things we've never done before. ...
"Please don't be afraid to present some very bold ideas to us."
After about 10 months of work, several task force members confirmed that they will indeed be delivering bold plans to Council.
Commissioned reports and studies about San Antonio's housing market has revealed what many already know firsthand, said task force Chair Lourdes Castro Ramirez, that the increase in housing prices has vastly outpaced increases in household income. About 165,000 San Antonians spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent or a mortgage payment.
The task force's comprehensive report addressing the affordable housing gap in San Antonio will be complete before August, Castro Ramirez said, and will include an element often missing from such policy documents: compassion.
"Understanding and addressing the everyday needs of families often gets left behind," said Castro Ramirez, a former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development principal deputy assistant secretary. "Everyone should have a place to call home."
A longer list of recommendations, developed by five technical working groups with public input, was revealed last week, and the task force continues to narrow down those 26 items. Download the initial list of recommendations from the working groups here.
It's unclear how many policies and goals the group will identify, but the most important element will be implementation, said Maria Berriozábal, a former city councilwoman who serves on the task force.
"There's some recommendations that have been repeated over and over, and they haven't been implemented," she said, noting that she's found 10 housing reports and policy guides that have been created for San Antonio throughout the last three decades.
Responsibility for implementing the goals set out by the task force must fall on the highest levels of local government, Berriozábal said, including the mayor and city manager.
Housing, energy, transportation, and water are the four legs of city infrastructure, Berriozábal said, paraphrasing fellow task member and Pape-Dawson Engineers President Gene Dawson, who could not attend Monday's meeting. While those basics should be given equal resources and weight, she said, housing hasn't received that level of priority until now.
Saldaña and Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said they would support elevating housing to a top City responsibility.
Under the five-member task force are the technical working groups that comprise about 15-30 people each focusing on several topics: developing and preserving housing for stable, equitable, and resilient neighborhoods; removing barriers to housing affordability and supply; creating a transparent, coordinated housing system for all, including special/vulnerable populations; and identifying new housing funds and finance mechanisms for housing affordability and supply.
Download the technical working groups' reports here.
Councilmen John Courage (D9) and Roberto Treviño (D1) said they would strongly support recommendations that support owner-occupied home rehabilitation programs to help residents keep their current homes as well as policies that address gentrification or displacement.
They referenced the San Pedro Creek improvements project that converted a drainage channel into a public park that opened in May. Rents at a nearby apartment building, which recently changed owners, have increased since the public project started.
"They're never going to enjoy it," Courage said of the apartments' current residents. "Other people willing pay twice the price will."
While rent prices haven't doubled there yet, property values in the urban core continue to increase. Treviño said the right incentives, policies, and infrastructure can help ensure that people – both homeowners and renters – can stay put.
"We don't want to create value that pushes people out," he said.