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'Anti-displacement' policy a quarter through $1 million fund

by Gaige DavilaMay 16, 2019
Two months ago, the City Council allocated $1 million to assist people threatened with displacement. Folo Media file photo

Setting It Straight: A previous version of this article misstated the amount of the $1 million risk mitigation fund that's been used so far. It's 25 percent.

Two months after the money was allocated, 118 people have been helped by San Antonio's $1 million fund, which was set aside two months ago by City Council to assist residents on the verge of displacement—or, who are being displaced—because of rising rents or unexpected costs.

Of the 118 total, 112 people were given emergency assistance, which helps residents stay in their homes by helping with rent, mortgage payments and utility bills.

Around half of them—52—were children under the age of 18, with 48 between 24-99 years of age. Nine were between 18-24 years old. Eighteen were either elderly or disabled.

The policy, which was created by the city’s Neighborhood & Housing Services Department (NHSD), was approved by the City Council in late March.

The 118 people account for 45 households, according to the data NHSD provided last week.

Of that total, 12 households live in District 2, San Antonio’s East Side—the most of any district.

District 3, San Antonio’s southeast side, had eight households take advantage of the assistance, while Districts 1 and 5—the downtown area and the near West Side, respectively—had five households each.

Four families were relocated entirely—all of them from District 1.

NHSD officials have estimated the $1 million could help up to 200 families, if the families are given the maximum amount of assistance. Around 25 percent percent of the $1 million has been used to assist 45 families, according to Ian Benavidez, NHSD affordable housing administrator.

In a phone interview with the Heron on March 21, the day City Council approved the $1 million, NHSD Director Veronica Soto said the funding was going quicker than NHSD had anticipated, after the department had more than 60 families on a waitlist to receive assistance. Most of those families, she said, and those applying for assistance from NHSD, also qualify for another program called the Short-Term Rental Assistance fund, which uses federal dollars to assist income-stressed families.

A request for proposal (RFP) to develop a larger "anti-displacement" policy has been drafted by NHSD, and it's expecting to hire a consultant in June—using $500,000 from the Homeownership Incentive Program, a city program that loans between $1,000 and $15,000 for first-time home buyers. The consultant will develop an “anti-displacement” policy for 10 months.

Along with the RFP, NHSD applied for a $150,000 grant from the Grounded Solutions Network, a Portland, Oregon, nonprofit housing policy consulting firm, to aid in creating the "anti-displacement" policy. The grant, and additional consultation from Grounded Solutions Network, will operate in tandem with the city’s effort to develop a larger "anti-displacement” plan, if San Antonio is awarded the money.

Meanwhile, NHSD is using census and city data to study the inner West Side, and the East Side neighborhoods of Denver Heights and Government Hill, where urban development and rising property taxes are risking long-time residents' ability to remain in these neighborhoods. Data regarding code enforcement actions, and the number of homeowners and renters in these neighborhoods is also being collected. NHSD is looking to designate these areas as neighborhood empowerment zones, a Texas law that allows homeowners to have their city property taxes frozen for no more than 10 years.

Read more about the city's anti-displacement efforts:

» San Antonio’s new $1 million displacement policy already in high demand

» Is San Antonio doing enough to address displacement?

» Tax freezes sought for near West Side, Denver Heights, Government Hill

» COPS/Metro to City Council on displacement: 'We don't want a study, we want action'

Contact Gaige Davila: 956-372-4776 | gaige@saheron.com | @gaigedavila on Twitter

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