COPS Metro Urges Mayor to Ramp Up Implementation of Affordable Housing Policy

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg meets with members of the COPS Metro Alliance during a meeting calling for action on his housing policy.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg meets with members of the COPS Metro Alliance about the City's housing policy.

A community coalition wants to see more aggressive implementation of policies aimed at preventing housing displacement in San Antonio. During a meeting Monday night among more than 100 members of COPS Metro Alliance and Mayor Ron Nirenberg, he said, “I’m listening to you.”

Under Nirenberg’s leadership, San Antonio has for the first time prioritized housing in the City’s annual budget. The mayor established a task force to recommend affordable housing policy measures that City Council adopted last year, but COPS Metro wants to see stronger action from the mayor and Council to prevent people being priced out of their homes or apartments – not just mitigate such displacement.

A displacement policy is slated to be completed in 2020 after a significant amount of research and data collection, Nirenberg said. In the meantime, a $1 million risk mitigation fund has been established for residents experiencing housing vulnerability, he said.

“When I walked into the mayor’s office we had $7 million going to housing in the city of San Antonio, today we have $25 million,” Nirenberg said. “Nobody was talking about … the priority of affordable housing.”

“Except COPS Metro,” one audience member offered.

Nirenberg agreed.

“And I listened to you,” he said. “Are we doing everything right? Absolutely not. But we’ve set a foundation and an expectation that everyone deserves a fair chance at prosperity and deserves equity in this city and we’ve done that in less than two years.”

2020 is a long way away, said discussion moderator and a COPS Metro leader Pastor Joshua Snyder of the First Unitarian Universalist Church.

“When it came to getting developers their money, you operated with a great sense of urgency,” Snyder said. “When it comes to making sure that regular people aren’t getting displaced, you have no urgency.” The crowd erupted in applause.

The friction at the meeting stemmed from the passage of new rules to incentivize housing development downtown. City Council approved an update to the Inner City Reinvestment and Infill Policy (ICRIP) and Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP) to include stronger affordable housing requirements in December 2018.

The new CCHIP policy also redirects funds to the City’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department that administers home rehabilitation, housing counseling, and other programs related to keeping residents in their homes.

“It will stay in housing, it’s not going to go anywhere,” Nirenberg said.

COPS Metro called for a more detailed account of where that money is spent in the department.

COPS Metro has successfully rallied for a number of policy initiatives in its 44-year history, including raising the City and Bexar County minimum wage, owner-occupied rehabilitation programs, workforce development programs, and resources for neglected neighborhoods. Affordable housing has long been a chief concern of the group, too.

“What’s very clear is that we need to do a much better job in communicating what the Housing Policy Task Force has produced,” Nirenberg said, as he pledged to find ways to better communicate with COPS Metro and the general public about the new resources available. 

Father Larry Christian of St. Ann Catholic Church suggested several “quick wins” that COPS Metro believed could start helping people who feel burdened by housing costs, including a stronger awareness and education system about available resources such as property tax freezes for senior citizens and the risk mitigation fund, tax credits for homeowners that improve their homes.

Meanwhile, Nirenberg said he expects to attend an upcoming session in which COPS Metro asks mayor candidates to commit to supporting certain policies and ideals.

He’ll face the biggest challenge, out of a field of eight, from Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who has criticized the nearly $4 billion price tag – from public and private sources – to fill the affordable housing gap in San Antonio.

“I need to hear these stories. You matter. And I’m asking you to hold me accountable for doing something about it – me and my colleagues,” Nirenberg said. “It would be very easy for me, as other politicians have done in the past, to skip the hard meetings. But these meetings are the most important ones.”

Linda Davila of St. Timothy Catholic Church said she thinks Nirenberg was being sincere.

“But what we didn’t get from him was that sense of urgency that we all have,” Davila said.

“I do feel a sense of urgency because people in San Antonio have waited more than a generation for housing to be addressed by the city,” Nirenberg said after the meeting. “We are now addressing it and we can’t move fast enough to effect change.”

5 thoughts on “COPS Metro Urges Mayor to Ramp Up Implementation of Affordable Housing Policy

  1. If these organizations feel that the city has not done things fast enough. What makes them think things will change just because Ron Nirenberg are making election campaign promises? He is obligated to city hall insiders, city hall money brokers, developers, and their lobbyists. Our community leaders need to demand and require more. Scraps are no long enough for the forgotten communities of the Southside, westside, and Eastside.

  2. Do you believe one of the other candidates for mayor would be more effective at creating positive change for the housing issues facing San Antonio? I am genuinely asking since I do not know their positions of this issue.

  3. If you study the city’s “urban planning” trajectory back 30 yrs, one could see “affordable housing” & “displacement” issues bubbling up to the surface over time. We’ve had other Housing Summits before, with little effect; $25 million over 10 yrs isn’t going to cut it. Unless & until the city (& county) replace their urban planning model which is designed to accelerate growth at a fast pace in sync with the commercial real estate industry – heavily subsidized by public dollars — in favor of their built environment, growth agenda, citizens will only see irreversible rising costs of living, property taxes, gentrification, displacement, and discontent with the city’s metroplex agenda. The “urban planning” model is not the only planning tool available; with this model, we have earned a No. 1 national ranking in economic segregation. We need a socioeconomic framework, designed to raise standards of living & quality of life outcomes, in real terms, which is what CED practitioners advocate. Pls consider alternative ideas bearing greater fruit for low-moderate income families, seniors, young adults, renters, fixed income homes, & those with special needs. If you’re reacting, you’re too late.

    • To your points, I think a large part of the problem is the tax abatements given to developers downtown especially. Condos built that never get filled completely, but the developer not having to pay taxes for 10 years or so really hurts the taxpayers who then have to take up the slack but can’t. This idea that San Antonio wouldn’t “survive” without developer investment fueled by giveaways is harmful. It’s a bad, outdated model.

      • This is an old issue, with little transparency & accountability. Look up GASB77 & you will see how financial reporting is now required in these transactions, though the Public Information Act protects the privacy of private companies. That said, tax abatements are only a small part of the bigger, more consequential problem, as I touched upon above. Much to yet untangle, discuss & debate.

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