Developer Michal Hogan got demonstrations of support last week from the new City Council and the Bexar County Commissioners Court as he seeks tax credits for a planned affordable housing project, Medio Springs Ranch Apartments, on the far Westside.
The development containing 348 affordable housing units moved closer to construction, with groundbreaking projected for as early as November at 1530 Marbach Oaks, in an unincorporated area of Bexar County. Hogan received a resolution of no objection from the Council and county commissioners as part of the application process for tax credits that aid in financing the development of affordable housing.
“This affordable housing development is sorely needed in our community," Precinct 1 Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez said. "With the skyrocketing costs of homes and rentals in Bexar County, most folks are not able to find affordable housing. This development will go a long way toward helping folks who may otherwise not be able to find affordable housing in the area they would like to be in."
Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni said San Antonio needs far more affordable housing units than it has currently.
"We need about 150,000 more workforce units," Zanoni said. "... Either single family or multi-family so [residents are] not spending the majority of their income on housing."
Hogan, who has developed affordable housing units in San Antonio and other cities, has waited for the proper time to develop the land.
"In this particular case, we have as a company owned that land for 15 years," Hogan told the Rivard Report. "We reserved this for multi-family. We just think the time is right to do the kind of project that we’re doing."
The right time, in this case, means that the development aligns with special designations given to the area by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The area in which the project will be located has been designated by HUD as a difficult development area, which means it is an area with a high number of low-income residents.
The application now goes to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which requires developers to notify pertinent neighborhood associations and necessary governmental entities. Hogan, however, had to do more than give out local notifications because the development is located in unincorporated Bexar County within the City of San Antonio's extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).
"Several years ago [the State] added on a letter of no objection so that when an applicant applies for tax credits, he not only sends notices out but he then has to go and obtain a letter of no objection," Hogan said. "In this case we’re in the ETJ so it requires both [the City and the County]."
The project is a joint venture between Hogan's firm and the Bexar County Housing Authority, which will manage the properties once they're fully developed.
"It brings government stability," Hogan said. " It turns out to be a good asset for the area. [The locals] won’t have to fear this is going to turn into a slum, which is what they always say."
This affordable housing development is not a part of the Urban Renewal Plan included in Proposition 6 of the recently passed 2017 municipal bond. Although it does not address the lack of affordable housing in the city's urban core, Zanoni believes it is a beneficial development.
"This is where we’re beginning to see a lot of multi-family affordable units being built, because that's where the areas of opportunity are," Zanoni said. "That’s where the best schools, the jobs are, and so on."
Creating affordable housing in the area will not necessarily draw people out to the far Westside, Zanoni said. However, it allows families already in the area who are spending more than 30% of their income on housing to find more affordable rent.
"Most of the people that will be leasing these units are living in that area," Zanoni said. "A lot of times people think that if you have workforce or affordable housing that you’re going to draw people from all across the city to this new development. But what the developers tell us is that the research shows that most people are relocating from the immediate area."
"These are hardworking people," Hogan said. "They have jobs to qualify. It's just that we’re giving them an opportunity to live in some high-quality housing at affordable rent levels."