Housing Policy Task Force Calls for 10-Year, $3.9 Billion Plan

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East Meadows provides new, mixed-income homes on what was once the site of Wheatley Courts, one of the oldest public housing developments in San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

East Meadows provides new, mixed-income homes on what was once the site of Wheatley Courts, one of the oldest public housing developments in San Antonio.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg's Housing Policy Task Force on Monday released its final report for comprehensive housing reform in San Antonio almost one year to the day after being formed.

The report includes final, more specific details regarding policies and recommendations previously discussed by the task force at City Council and its working groups in June, including estimates for the 10-year funding plan that approaches $3.9 billion in public and private funding. Click here to download the 56-page report.

"[The report is also] focused on an explanation of our processes and data that was used to better understand the housing challenges [in San Antonio]," task force chair Lourdes Castro Ramírez told the Rivard Report Friday. "In general, what we presented to City Council [during] B Session and what's in this report is pretty much the same."

Many of the task force's recommendations have already been acknowledged by City Council and prioritized in the City's 2019 fiscal year budget, which is slated for approval in September. That budget would triple commitments to several housing assistance and repair initiatives, create a new risk-mitigation fund for people on the brink of displacement, and add 13 City staff positions in the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department – 10 funded by the City and three by the federal government.

"We are very pleased with the budget that City Manager [Sheryl] Sculley presented last week," Ramírez said. "It's a really strong start ... but there are a number of other recommendations left [to fund]."

Should the City change its charter to allow for direct spending on housing projects – an idea that has received broad Council support in the past – the task force recommends using $250 million in bonds for housing bonds over the next 10 years.

That – combined with $485 million from the City's general fund (annual budget), property tax exemptions (approximately $58.5 million), City fee waivers ($133 million), and revenue from a revolving door loan fund ($113 million) – accounts for the 10-year plan's more than $1 billion in public sources.

The private contribution is expected to be around $2.8 billion, according to the report.

The implementation timeline provided in the report calls for Sculley to establish a position and start looking for a top executive in October "to lead housing and neighborhood-related activities and integrate with all city functions" as part of a new "coordinated housing system."

The proposed budget for next year, slated for a Council vote on Sept. 13, does not include funding for this position. For now, Sculley said, Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni will oversee the implementation of a three-year plan he has developed with Neighborhood and Housing Services Director Veronica Soto.

"I think we would all agree that it's critically important to be able to hire an executive with experience and expertise and someone to be held accountable for making sure that these policy recommendations are implemented not just in year one," Ramírez said. "For us to make a significant impact, it's going to require a long view and commitment over time.

Lourdes Castro-Ramirez makes welcoming remarks at the first Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force meeting at San Antonio Central Library.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Lourdes Castro Ramírez makes opening remarks at a Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force meeting at San Antonio Central Library.

"We put forward our strongest recommendations for what it would take to address the affordable housing [gap]," Ramírez said. "We recognize that we're recommending – we're not dictating or directing. It becomes a conversation point for the mayor and council."

Nirenberg has indicated he would push for a more immediate hire of the executive some have called the "housing czar."

"There is still a lot to be worked out between the delivery of the recommendations and the implementation of them," he stated in an email. "My plan is to fully support the task force. That’s why I appointed them.”

The task force also calls for the City to develop a one-stop housing center and online portal for residents and developers in need of information and support regarding housing issues.

"Such a single point of access will help the City align resources and leverage public investment with effectiveness and accountability," the report reads.

The report explains that about 165,000 San Antonians are overburdened with housing expenses – meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, mortgage payments, and other costs associated with housing, such as electricity.

The new housing system is one of five "action items" with corresponding policy priorities and strategies. Those action items are: develop a coordinated housing system; increase City investment in housing; increase affordable housing production, rehabilitation, and preservation; protect and promote neighborhoods; and ensure accountability to the public.

Action items, policies, and strategies from the Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force report.

Courtesy / City of San Antonio

Action items, policies, and strategies from the Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force report.

The report and recommendations were formulated through public input hearings and five working groups – made up of about 20-30 people each – who released their preliminary findings earlier this summer. Most recommendations are nearly identical to those presented to Council on June 20, save for a clarification for incentives and funding the City should focus on.

For homeowners, Ramírez said, the City should focus on supporting people earning up to 120 percent of the area's average median income (AMI). For renters, it should target those earning 60 percent AMI. That's because the criteria for home loans are different than for renters, she said.

"Bold" action is what Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) asked for, and that's what he said the proposed budget provided in terms of housing.

After seeing Sculley's proposal last week, Saldaña told the Rivard Report, he understands the need to phase in and ramp up housing funding and policies.

He emphasized the importance of creating and filling that prospective executive position soon, but acknowledged that "there's not someone out there ready to go next week to take the position."

For now, the "focus is right" on tripling the budget and adding staff, he said.

City Council will likely consider the task force report in September when it will take official action, a spokesperson for the mayor said.

If approved, the Housing Commission, which was created via a separate task force initiated under then-Mayor Julián Castro, would essentially become the entity tasked with overseeing the implementation of these recommendations, according to the report.

11 thoughts on “Housing Policy Task Force Calls for 10-Year, $3.9 Billion Plan

  1. So the City’s budget is $2.8 billion, more or less. Now they will propose spending about 10% of that amount annually for ten years for housing. At what cost to other programs? Will it impact the all-important Tobacco 21? I’m encouraged to see that some of the will go to educating the citizenry on the importance of housing. Who knew?

    This will go down a colossal waste of money and opportunity.

    If the City Council is for it, I’m against it.

  2. It’s amazing how conservatives don’t mind the city spending tax money for sports stadiums, sports arenas, but go into convulsions about money used to address housing issues.
    If landlords weren’t so greedy, and local employers paid living wages, perhaps there would be no housing crisis.

    • City council decisions have driven up the rental market. The rent is a private agreement between renter and landlord, as the wages are a private agreement between employer and employee. Don’t like the rent or the wage? Move on. There wouldn’t be such a housing crisis if we didn’t spend 10 year’s worth of flood control monies on San Pedro Creek park, which caused the property taxes to sky rocket, leaving people unable to afford once-affordable housing. If we taught simple home economics at school as we used to. If people didn’t breed before becoming stable and if they were taught that growing up. If people started investing in themselves, making themselves more marketable, instead of worrying about which cars they were driving, and which designer clothes they would be wearing. If we held politicians accountable for spending money frivolously (like $200+ porta-potties x2, moving harmless statues).

      I find it amazing that people on the left find it okay to take money (increasing taxes) and services away from people (like Animal Control services, infrastructure maintenance) but are completely ignorant on what the social programs such as “living wage” and demanding a regulation on what someone should/could charge for rent, does to society in reality, and sad that people don’t feel that they should be held accountable for their decisions.

      • Yes, how much did it cost to remove the statue that most people did not even know was there? The mayor and his henchmen at the City Council are so driven by their passions they can hardly think straight. I’m in favor of the prop 3 if only to wrest some power from their hands so at least the people have some say about the priorities. Once it passes, who knows what will come up?

        BTW, I drove over the Rainbow Crosswalk the other day. It’s so dirty from all the traffic you can hardly tell what it is supposed to represent. More COSA money down the drain. (No, I don’t believe Trevino’s story that the crosswalk was due for repainting and the city only spent what it would have anyway with local businesses making up the difference. Why would a local businessman or woman, knowing full well how it would turn out, agree to put up any cash. All lies from on high.)

  3. Reading the proposal, I can hardly figure out what COSA is actually supposed to do other than build low-income housing projects that turn into slums. I’m all in favor of appraisal protection, but that is a county matter, is it not? We all know the appraisal district is unaccountable and ruthless. As I recall, the governor wanted to exercise some control at the state level, but liberal politicians, like those of the Politburo, objected.

  4. The city has vastly overreached its purpose with this housing plan. They created the problem w massive tax abatements …and guess who will be making up for those abatements? The homeowner taxpayer! Wait and see how high property valuations increase to make up for abatements…esp for school districts.

    The affordable housing apartments are basically wealth redistribution—those paying ‘market rate’ make up for the affordable units.

    What will all this affordable housing look like in 10-15 years? Who will make sure it maintains its value? A lot of taxpayer $ is being used at what cost to other programs?

    The problem is we don’t have an educated/skilled workforce which leads to too many low wage jobs. We don’t need 70,000 new jobs per the mayor—we need good paying, high quality jobs…it really isn’t quantity, it’s quality. No educated/skilled workforce you don’t attract quality employers/jobs. Education makes the change for the city, not being known for affordable housing bc wages are so low in the city. Educating the workforce should be the priority.

    • This means ending the defacto segregation in area public education. We don’t need 16 separate and unequal school districts!

  5. Very few (public ) schools resemble segregation according to data…and economically the districts you are probably thinking of give a huge chunk to the state as part of Robin Hood plan…and lose revenue due to COSA tax abatements.

    In SA lack of language skills is,IMO, the biggest problem. Many who don’t know English also don’t have language skills in their first language. Not meant to be a racist statement, but you need good English language skills to be successful in this country…otherwise you have low wage jobs leading to the city providing affordable housing. Vicious circle—somewhere you have to break the cycle—let’s be bold on that!

    • Within the San Antonio area, only Alamo Heights ISD has traditionally been subject to recapture (“Robin Hood”). NEISD, however, will this year begin to also share their revenue.

      CoSA tax abatements are only for city taxes – school taxes are unaffected. Now, in the past, school districts could give their own abatements, but the state essentially outlawed (they lose funding) the practice.

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