Alazan Lofts project gets assist from non-West Side council members

by Ben OlivoJanuary 19, 2019
This patch of land on the northwest corner of South Colorado and El Paso streets—adjacent to the Alazan Courts—is being eyed for a 98-unit, mixed-income development called Alazan Lofts. BEN OLIVO | HERON

In a gesture of largesse from four non-West Side council members, a mixed-income development called Alazan Lofts, planned for vacant parcels that abut the aging Alazan Courts, has received an extra boost at the request of District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales.

The San Antonio Housing Authority and developer NRP Group are partnering on the 98-unit, mixed-income project, but it lacks a crucial piece of funding—the much-coveted and therefore highly-competitive 9 percent low-income housing tax credits—a federal program administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).

Low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) timetable

» Dec. 5, 2018: Application process opens
» Jan. 4: Application process closed
» Jan. 4-7: Neighborhood and Housing Services Department staff scores each applications
» Jan. 16: Staff makes recommendations regarding letters of support and of no objection to Comprehensive Plan Committee
» Feb. 14: City Council awards the letters
» March 1: 9% LIHTC state applications due to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA)
» March-July: TDHCA reviews applications; awards housing tax credits in July

The program is considered one of the best incentive tools for producing truly affordable housing nationwide. If awarded, the developer then sells the tax credits to investors in exchange for equity. The $17 million Museum Reach Lofts, the much-publicized affordable project planned for near the Pearl, was made possible by tax credits, from which developer Alamo Community Group anticipates to generate $10 million.

This year, in the San Antonio region, developers representing 20 projects applied for the tax credits, but the state, through a points system, is only expected to select three projects.

The projects go through a local process, in which they earn points at the state level if they receive from the city of San Antonio letters of support (worth 17 points) or letters of no objection (14 points).

On Wednesday, the five-member Comprehensive Plan Committee (CPC) looked at the list of projects vying for the tax credits, which are located in every district except District 7, before the list goes to the whole City Council in February.

Staff members with the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department recommended that the CPC recommend letters of support to all of the projects, but one.

This is when Gonzales made a bold ask.

She pleaded with her colleagues to recommend a support letter only to Alazan Courts, so that it could rank higher, and therefore have a better shot at receiving the tax credits.

After much discussion about the dangers of concentrating affordable housing in specific areas of town—the old debate about whether to bring the good jobs and schools to poorer neighborhoods, or build affordable housing next to the good jobs and schools—council members Roberto Treviño, Art Hall, Rey Saldaña and John Courage agreed with Gonzales.

"My hope is that with some attention to Alazan (Lofts), we could then move SAHA to invest in redeveloping the rest of Alazan, which is the oldest housing project in the country, 700-plus units that are just in tremendous need of redevelopment," Gonzales said during the meeting.

That's SAHA's plan, as well.

In 2017, SAHA applied for the Choice Neighborhood grant—a federal subsidy worth up to $30 million—with the hope of rebuilding the nearly-80-year-old Alazan Courts. The Choice grant is the same program that played a huge role in the transformation of the old Wheatley Courts into the mixed-income East Meadows on the East Side. But SAHA didn't get the grant in 2017.

So now it's attempting a different strategy.

What is AMI?
The area median income for a family of four in the greater San Antonio area (including New Braunfels) is $66,800, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Here's how it breaks down for lower-income households:
» 80% - $53,440
» 60% - $40,800
» 50% - $33,400
» 40% - $26,720
» 30% - $20,400

At the Alazan Lofts, 20 percent of the units would be public housing, 35 percent rented to households making 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), 35 percent for people making 60 percent AMI, and 10 percent priced at the market rate.

There is so much more reporting to be done regarding the low-income housing tax credits process, and we're on it. Stayed tuned for more.

Oh, and the fact that none of these low-income projects this year are being proposed for District 7 is probably not an accident. There's a recent history there.

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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