New plan for Alazan Courts: SAHA intends to keep all residents on site after 'self-developing' the property

by Ben OlivoJanuary 21, 2021
The Alazan Courts were built in 1940. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

In a dramatic new direction for the redevelopment of the Alazan Courts, the San Antonio Housing Authority will recommend to its board of commissioners today that SAHA "self-develop" the courts with the intent of keeping its roughly 1,200 low-income residents in the public housing property.

SAHA has canceled its agreement with developer NRP Group in a plan that would have demolished the 501 units spread across 23 acres on the near West Side with a mixed-income development. Criticism for the plan by housing advocates has been mounting, and culminated in a protest in November outside the condo of former SAHA CEO David Nisivoccia. Nisivoccia has since left SAHA to become the chief executive at the Denver Housing Authority, a move that was announced in early November.

Critics said the plan would essentially displace the families, whose average yearly income is $8,700, by scattering them throughout the city. Until now, SAHA contended that the families would receive vouchers, which housing advocates said doesn't necessarily guarantee they would be able to live in their preferred neighborhood because landlords are notrequired to accept the voucher. Opponents also characterized the previous plan as a major move toward the gentrification of the predominately poor West Side. They called for the restoration of the 80-year-old courts.

Now under acting CEO Ed Hinojosa Jr., who served as SAHA's chief financial officer under Nisivoccia, the agency appears to be changing course.

In a presentation scheduled to go before the SAHA board of commissioners this afternoon, SAHA staff cited the impact of low-income residents relocating, along with the Covid-19 pandemic, as reasons for the new direction. It also said the goal is to "maintain or grow the number of public housing units at Alazan."

SAHA intends to seek funding from the Biden administration and Congress for the project, "which may provide new opportunities for a creative approach to expanding public housing."

At the City Council meeting Thursday morning, District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales first broke the news, and expressed disappointment that the original plan had been shelved.

This is a developing story and will be updated with reaction later today.

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» Housing activists take their protest to San Antonio Housing Authority CEO’s home
» How to relocate Alazan Courts’ 1,200 residents? San Antonio Housing Authority says it’s complicated, critics say you don’t
» Alazan-Apache Courts named one of America’s most endangered historic places

Heron Editor Ben Olivo can be reached at 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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