New Report Shows Where SA’s Affordable Housing Stock Most at Risk

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A new development is directly next door to an older home in Dignowity Hill near Hays Street Bridge.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A new development (left) sits directly next to an older home in Dignowity Hill near the Hays Street Bridge.

A new report released by the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) shows which parts of San Antonio may be vulnerable to losing affordable housing, with neighborhoods within Loop 410 – especially those east and south of downtown – most affected.

The City’s Housing Commission to Protect and Preserve Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods will use the report to develop a “toolkit” to make policy recommendations that slow the negative effects of gentrification – specifically displacement – and expand affordable housing in San Antonio’s urban core.

The toolkit is important because “we all recognize [gentrification] is happening in our community,” said Veronica Soto, director of the City’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department. “Since I’ve been here for the last seven months, it’s clear that it has become a pressing issue.”

Click here to download the 53-page report.

The Housing Commission was tasked in 2015 with designing affordable housing policy, but it is unclear if the commission, or the new Housing Policy Task Force formed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg, will recommend policies for City Council consideration.

Currently, 44 percent of renters in the city pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income for housing, the NALCAB analysis shows.

NALCAB Executive Director Noel Andrés Poyo on Tuesday night highlighted the demographic and real estate market trends that contribute to an increasingly short supply of affordable housing in the city. The Housing Commission tasked NALCAB with developing the analysis last May.

Poyo said affordable housing includes a range of housing choices that are considered affordable to at least half of households in San Antonio. Factors such as population growth, public investment, new housing production, and unstable incomes may impact affordable housing stock.

Poyo suggested that the commission examine rapidly changing neighborhoods as proxies for areas that may be vulnerable to losing affordable housing. The analysis ranked Census tracts in San Antonio on a scale from 1 to 4, with 4 representing the greatest amount of change measured in increase in rent, education level, median household income, white (non-Hispanic) population, and owner-occupied rent from 2000 to 2015. (An “owner-occupied rent” household is one in which the owner also lives on the rental property.)

Rapidly changing neighborhoods that scored a 3 or 4 include Dignowity Hill, Denver Heights, Highland Park, King William, and Mission Concepción.

National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders / NALCAB

NALCAB presentation slide showing rapidly changing census tracts on a scale of 1 to 4.

Areas northwest and southwest of downtown within Loop 410 also are experiencing single-family home value appreciation above the citywide average, according to the analysis, which used proprietary data purchased from HouseCanary in combination with Bexar County Appraisal District and U.S. Census data.

National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders / NALCAB

NALCAB presentation slide showing neighborhoods with fast appreciated single family home values.

Poyo noted that housing trend data from HouseCanary portrays San Antonio’s current housing market more accurately than that of Bexar County, which shows an approximately two-year lag on current conditions.

During the presentation, NALCAB analysts also discussed unsubsidized affordable housing in neighborhoods that are experiencing rapid appreciation rates. This makes these areas vulnerable to price increases. (This form of housing is also known as “naturally-occuring” affordable housing.) Neighborhoods northwest of downtown, including the Pearl and Mahncke Park neighborhoods, as well as much of Alamo Heights, were singled out as having a significant amount of affordable housing stock that is vulnerable to price increases.

National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders / NALCAB

NALCAB presentation slide showing where affordable housing naturally occurs.

The Housing Commission is expected to make recommendations for the toolkit after it receives and studies the report.

Much of the information in the report, several commissioners noted, is already well-known from anecdotal observations in the community.

The need to focus on mobile home parks and subsidized housing in rapidly developing areas is “low-hanging fruit,” said Commissioner Debra Guerrero, vice president of governmental affairs for the NRP Group. “It’s those [neighbors] on the tipping point” of displacement that she hoped the report would expose.

“I appreciate the information,” Guerrero said, but she questioned how it could be used to prevent present-day displacement.

Poyo acknowledged that the data is limited in its scope and doesn’t come with all the answers, but said the report will provide baseline information on which to base policy formation.

“[Policy formation is] not going to happen without a systematic approach and a data set,” he said.

The report is a good starting point, said Commissioner Jim Bailey, associate principal for Alamo Architects. If the City is going to start committing public dollars to specific areas, the report provides another “layer of information to allow us to target where those dollars are going to go.”

Former Mayor Ivy Taylor originally created the Housing Commission to design affordable housing policy. That role has since shifted to Nirenberg’s Housing Policy Task Force, which is charged with developing a policy framework to address pressing affordable housing challenges, according to the City’s website.

Who will use the toolkit and to what end it will shape future housing policy, is still uncertain, Soto said.

She noted that several current Housing Commission members have been asked to participate in “technical working groups” created by the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force.

“At some point we do have to have the conversation about if the Housing Commission is charged with this toolkit, does it make sense that these recommendations be folded into larger work?” she said.

“I imagine [the toolkit] will have some prescriptive things … but [it] also may have some policy or programmatic items. The toolkit is the harder part.”

11 thoughts on “New Report Shows Where SA’s Affordable Housing Stock Most at Risk

  1. Housing becomes more affordable if a) you build lots of new housing or b) the city becomes a less desirable place to live. Who wants to make the city a “worse place to live” as a policy goal?

    This means SA needs to focus on allowing and incentivizing higher-density construction in desirable areas (especially mixed-income projects) and on scrutinizing regulations that make new construction more expensive or more time consuming (such as the opposition to new housing that plagues this city). Single-family housing is not going to solve the housing shortage and demand issues, and tends to increase displacement and increase exclusion.

    Overly simplistic, perhaps, but if the population is growing in the city and we want to keep the city both livable and affordable, there’s pretty much no alternative: over the long run, SA has to boost housing supply. We should understand that increasing supply tends to decrease prices, but many folks don’t understand the link between constrained housing supply and rising housing prices.

    Highland Park scored a 3 for gentrification risk, but yet the neighborhood is staunchly opposing a mixed-income 90 unit housing development. If they are successful in their opposition, they are increasing the demand and reducing the supply for housing and increasing the risk for displacement/gentrification. I certainly hope CW Viagran understands this as she makes a decision on whether to support the project or not.

    Renters are 2 X more likely to be displaced than homeowners – I hope this upcoming toolbox has a big focus on renters in these higher risk neighborhoods.
    People blame new development for rising property taxes, and rising property taxes for gentrification/displacement, but study after study shows that rising property taxes is not what drives people out of neighborhoods:

  2. Let’s form one more commission and fold it into yet another committee. By the time that holds its first meeting there will be no more affordable rental housing in Mahncke Park for sure. In the past 1 1/2 years whole streets of affordable duplexes and houses have been demolished and dozens of new 3-story $300,000 homes built because the City places no controls on development.
    While renters are pressured by new development, homeowners lose their affordable homes when their taxes keep rising. The house is still there, the owner just can’t afford to live in it. One obvious start would be freezing taxes on owner-occupied homes until the house changes hands. That way established residents can survive gentrification. This past year I’ve had two friends forced to sell houses and move because of taxes — one in Southtown and one in Lavaca.
    The City isn’t likely to act on this issue so they just talk.

  3. There is a simple way that will let people stay in the homes they own in designated neighborhoods with greatly-increasing property values without giving the owners any kind of free ride. Here’s the plan: If they have owned and lived in the home with it declared as their homestead for at least 5 years, allow them to choose to begin to DEFER payment of increases in their taxes beyond a given percentage amount per year (beyond 2-3% which would match general inflation) until they transfer title of the house or turn it into rental property. At that point all deferred taxes would have to be paid immediately.

    This plan would allow those who are complaining about gentrification to stay in their homes as long as they own them and live in them. It would keep their taxes at a reasonable rate during that time. But it would NOT forgive their tax obligations that are based on the increased value that is occurring over those years. Instead of getting a favor of paying less in taxes than due, they would just get a deferred payment option. At the point in time of selling the house or turning it into rental property, they would have to pay all back tax obligations that have been deferred over the years due to the “profit” they will be making based on that increased value that occurred while they were living there without paying full taxes. Computers make it easy to do this, and tax statements each year can show the increasing amount of deferred taxes that will be owed when they sell the property or turn it into rental property so that no one should be surprised. There probably also should be an added rule that should the deferred taxes reach the appraised value of the house (in the case of someone is letting their home greatly deteriorate over time), it would trigger the need to pay the deferred taxes.

    • Very well said Dansk, except I don’t mind the city giving a hand out to a home or business owner who have occupied their location for over five years. If the city wants affordable housing then let the city pay for it. The anti-gentrification council should prohibit the BCAD from raising the value on these properties.
      Gentrification is so complicated and the city can be very hypocritical. On a very small scale, if you so much as paint your house you are improving your neighborhood thus creating microscopic gentrification. But here’s the doozy. The city allocated $3,100,000 for park improvements in Dignowity Hill. That’s city sponsored gentrification. If the parks are nice then it’s going to create demand and demand makes prices go up. The neighborhood should be happy for their home values to be increasing. That means things are getting better. But I agree it is tough for people that have lived in a neighborhood for most their lives to be swept up in the new demand for housing.
      What irks me is that the city has 272 non-profits (mostly unnecessary and dysfunctional) that doles out $120,000,000 of our tax dollars each year and this doesn’t include the schemes where developers partner with non-profits so they pay no taxes at all. I’d be pissed if I’m paying school taxes for my kids and the kids in the new apartment complex aren’t because the developer partnered with a non-profit. They claim they’re providing affordable housing but in fact all they have to do is rent to someone in a certain low income bracket. That person can and usually does find a way to pay “market” rent anyway. So much for affordable housing. Richard Webner with the Express News did a very good article about this the other day.
      The city needs to cap property values for anyone occupying their home or business in the areas for the past five years. Once they are sold then the cap comes off.

    • Terrible idea. After 10 years, the accumulated tax liability could exceed the owner’s equity in their home. There should just be a flat out cap on how much they can increase your appraisal such that it cannot exceed the rate of inflation.

    • “Paid immediately” sounds unreasonable, especially to beneficiaries of an estate that could not pony up the dough right away. Instead, a reasonable and fair payment plan to the county could then be set up, based on the means of the new title holder.

      Like deductions on the rates from taxing entities, such as for homesteaders over 65 to the city, maybe place a cap on the taxed property value itself for the over-65 homesteader, but keep the market-value assessment in play for the rest of the neighbors who want a higher valuation in case they sell.

  4. I can tell the responses are coming from people who want a free ride meaning they are in areas facing gentrification. The only way to be fair to all citizens in the city is to base taxes due on appraised value. Why should some “win the lottery” living in certain neighborhoods? If taxes are going up because values are going up, the deferred taxes can easily be deducted from the sale value or paid from a loan if changing the property to rental property. Otherwise, its a free give-away that not all taxpayers get. Gentrification is a natural process. It is not going to stop in any city, and it is good for cities. Everyone loves going to Harlem now when visiting New York, yet they seldom fret about the poor people who had to leave to go to the Bronx and other parts of the city because of the improvements of that neighborhood that sent their taxes skyrocketing. My plan of deferred taxes lets the owner decided when he wants to pay the taxes he owns, lets him stay in his home if he prefers, but holds his feet to the fire in terms of having to pay the proper amount in taxes due to the value of the home eventually without favoritism in relation to what is expected of over other citizens of the city.

  5. We all know that nothing is free. I am self-employed and due to several unfortunate life events, I had to file for disability. And my income dropped because I could not work. I had to move twice due to high property taxes. I lived in my home for 25 years (Mahncke Park) and 5 years in the second home and now I getting ready to move again because property taxes keep going up. I am 63 and it’s difficult to find a home I can afford. I am an artist, SA native and raised on the southside and graduated from Texas State. I have no safety net. As a single white male, I have watched this city change from a very friendly town to the city that caters to the privileged, you know who you are. So, guess what I have to move again because I have to, my taxes are too high. I hope you people making the decisions will look at not whats good for the growth of the city but what is best for its citizens who stay and live here. I would like to find my final nesting place and call it HOME.

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