Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Pending a federal housing grant, the San Antonio Housing Authority plans to raze the Westside's Alazan Courts and replace them with mixed-income housing units. More than 65 percent of the residents living in the city's oldest public housing community want to see new construction on the lot, Housing Authority officials told the Rivard Report on Monday.
"Our residents made it very clear that they're ready for a change," said Lorraine Robles, the Housing Authority's director of development services and neighborhood revitalization. "This initiative would focus resources and dollars in this particular neighborhood that hasn't seen investment in decades."
Alazan Courts is home to nearly 1,200 residents living across 501 units originally constructed in 1939. The Housing Authority has been surveying and listening to the wants of those residents to inform the application that could grant the community $30 million in federal housing funds.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees the Choice Neighborhoods program, which funds locally driven initiatives aimed at transforming distressed public neighborhoods. If the Housing Authority is awarded the federal grant in July 2018, the existing structures at Alazan Courts would be demolished and replaced with apartments, townhomes, and walk-up units available to residents with varying incomes.
City Council approved a resolution of support after Housing Authority officials unveiled the plans during its Nov. 9 meeting. If the Housing Authority secures the federal grant money, the City would allocate $21 million from its 2018 budget for new investments in the Alazan-Guadalupe Choice Neighborhood footprint. Robles said private investments would further supplement the project.
The transformative plan is similar to the Housing Authority's redevelopment of Wheatley Courts on the city's Eastside, which was carried out with a 2012 Choice Neighborhoods program grant. Robles said the demolition and redevelopment timeline would be one major difference between the two projects.
"Relocation will be done in phases, not like in Wheatley where we moved all families all at once and demolished the buildings all at once," Robles said. "We're going to do Alazan in [three] phases. The [Housing Authority's] plan to redevelop calls for building first within the neighborhood so that we can try to provide some of the residents a one-move relocation, [so] they would go from their old unit into their new permanent home."
The Housing Authority has selected the locally based NRP Group to construct the new properties. Robles said the Choice funds would allow the Housing Authority to invest in the new housing for Alazan Courts, provide case management services to residents, and invest in the surrounding community.
The courts are located in the Avenida Guadalupe neighborhood near Lanier High School and Tafolla Middle School. The average median income for residents living at Alazan Courts is $10,242, said Adrian Lopez, director of community development initiatives for the Housing Authority.
The nearby Apache Courts are not included in the Housing Auhtority's plans as they are in better condition than its larger public housing counterpart.
"We feel very strongly that [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] would be hard pressed to deny us knowing that we already have the money procured up front for the plans that we have put in place in our application," Robles said.
Responding to concerns about razing the existing buildings, Robles said the Housing Authority is working to offer several architectural designs that would respect the community's historic and cultural constitution.