Why you should give a @#*! about the people who live at the Alazan Courts

by Ben OlivoMarch 2, 2021
Dirt that will eventually become The Legacy at Alazan mixed-income apartments abuts the Alazan Courts near El Paso and South Colorado streets. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

From an outsider’s perspective, the apparent sudden shift in the San Antonio Housing Authority’s approach to redeveloping the Alazan Courts came as a shock.

For more than three years, SAHA’s plan, which had been blasted by housing advocates, called for the demolition of the 80-year-old public housing community sprawled across 26 acres just west of downtown, and having it replaced with mixed-income apartments. Many of the 1,200 residents, whose average income is $8,700, would have been given the Section 8 voucher and with it the chance to live in a better neighborhood, even though roughly 58% of voucher holders, by SAHA’s own estimate, are not able to find new housing.

Then came a change at the top. SAHA CEO and President David Nisivoccia left Jan. 6 to become the top executive at Denver’s housing agency. Replacing him the next day in the interim was Ed Hinojosa Jr., who previously served as SAHA’s chief financial officer.

Two weeks later, a much different plan emerged: Not only would SAHA maintain the Alazan Court’s 501 public housing units, it would do so by keeping residents on site.

Big picture, whereas the previous SAHA administration—and administrations before it—sought to demolish the city’s remaining public housing stock, and replace it with mixed-income developments that offered some market-rate housing, an urban renewal strategy introduced by President Clinton, Hinojosa now intends to reverse the nationwide trend and preserve, then expand public housing in San Antonio.

Hinojosa insists the new direction is one the agency has been crafting for months, one that was cemented when Joe Biden won the election in November, thus shifting the federal government’s role in public housing in the U.S. in a more progressive direction. Couple the philosophical change in Washington, D.C., with economic hardships brought on by the pandemic, and it was time for SAHA to change course at Alazan, Hinojosa said.
FUNDING THAT MAY BECOME AVAILABLE

"What’s different today than a year ago is just that: the impact of unemployment on the housing market, the impact of people losing their wages and not being able to pay rent, and the eviction moratoriums … which I think would never have been imagined a year ago," Hinojosa said. "All of those factors sort of coming together, and us really being concerned about the impact on our residents, many of whom are behind on their rent."

Hinojosa said nearly 300 households at Alazan Courts are behind on their rent. The only thing keeping them in place is the national eviction moratorium for federal properties. "And rightfully so," he said in a recent interview.

Had the previous plan been kept, and those residents in arrears eventually took their chances with a Section 8 voucher, out in the free market, beyond the protections afforded to them as residents of public housing, it may have been impossible to find a landlord willing to take them in as tenants.

Kayla Miranda, who lives at the nearby Apache Courts, which SAHA considers part of the same property as Alazan, said families who live in public housing who make $50 to $100 a week couldn’t afford a Section 8 voucher, anyway, and that the previous SAHA administration was setting them up for failure.

"If they get a house … they're not going to be able to afford to pay water, trash, sewer, and their rent," said Miranda, who began fighting SAHA’s eviction policy in 2019 when she was threatened with an avalanche of fees from policies Nisovoccia later admitted, when pressed by the city’s Housing Commission, were excessive. "They don’t have the protections that public housing residents have. It was falling on deaf ears before. At least now … they listened to our comments."

Before the philosophical change, Nisivoccia said the housing authority would be working with residents in arrears, and who might have other blemishes on their leasing record, to better their chances of finding a place. CREDIT SCORES. /// But even Olga Kauffman, a healthcare consultant who sits on SAHA’s board of commissioners, and who aided Wheatley Courts residents in their transition before that East Side public housing community was demolished and replaced with the mixed-income East Meadows a few years ago, cast serious doubt on the strategy.

. . .

This story’s nutgraph

Why should anyone outside of the West Side care about what happens at the Alazan Courts? Because Alazan and Apache, and San Antonio’s other remaining public housing communities—Cassiano and Lincoln, also on the West Side—compose the last remaining public housing stock, which houses San Antonio’s most vulnerable families. Alazan, in particular, because it’s the oldest of the remaining communities, is ground zero for the debate on whether San Antonio should de-concentrate PUBLIC HOUSING

NATIONWIDE TREND

"In public housing, 250,000 units have been rebuilt as mixed-income," Hinojosa said. "So we’ve lost 250,000 public housing units in the last 20 years as a nation."

In San Antonio, an estimated 6,000 public housing units—Alazan, Apache, Cassiano and Lincoln—remaining today, while 40,000 people sit on SAHA’s public housing waiting list, Hinojosa said.

In a level of candor not shown by the previous administration, Hinojosa described the housing that SAHA was helping to build, through partnerships with for-profit developers, as not public housing, but close to it. Although SAHA provides families with vouchers tied to specific properties, to help bring rent closer to their income levels, Hinojosa described apartments for people making 30% of the area median income as "not public housing, REST OF THE QUOTE."

The Section 8 voucher waiting list is almost as bad.
/// Hinojosa says SAHA issues roughly 50 vouchers a month, and that 58% or so are able to find new housing. For Hinojosa, the numbers of the original plan weren’t quite adding up. In the first phase, SAHA would have relocated 250 residents. MORE MORE MORE????
/// The waiting list for a housing voucher, which has been closed for several years, stands at around 8,000. SAHA officials said they’’l. open up the waiting list soon.

. . .

Subhead

REWORD —— As far as the new direction goes,
REWORD —— The optics appeared as simple as one CEO out, another steps in. For the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA), one CEO left, another took over, and there was a sudden shift in direction. Perhaps one that housing advocates would consider more humane.
Cha Guzman and her letter

Aside from public housing, Hinojosa is now addressing many of the issues advocacy groups, such as a group of vocal SAHA residents and the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, have chided the housing authority on in recent years.

??? ??? — It also signaled a less adversarial response to its critics, who used the slogan "people over profit" as an objection against the agency’s strong push to partner with for-profit developers on housing that was predominately market-rate or close to it.

For example, Hinojosa said any future partnership with for-profit developers must include some percentage of public housing, or close to it. He also addressed the CUSTOMER SERVICE< MAINTENANCE ISSUES And yet, one can’t ignore the change in tone . . . David Nisivoccia Seemingly all of the issues housing advocates and SAHA residents complained to Nisivoccia about But interim SAHA CEO Ed Hinojoa Jr. begs to differ on that assessment. /// Q: The pandemic has been going on for almost a year, and I hear you on all the points you made, but a lot of folks are going to point out the fact that David Nisivoccia left. You come in and now there’s a new direction for this property that had been very contentious before. Can you speak to that? A: No, I think one other factor that happened is the Georgia elections. When we learned of the result of the Georgia elections, and the Democrats taking control of the Senate, I think in all housing authorities’ minds across the nation, that single event helped changed the funding environment and the outlook for funding in our industry. So today the discussions in Washington, D.C., are about expansion of public housing. There’s something being called the Green New Deal for Public Housing … on a large scale of reinvestment in public housing. That’s being driven by (Sen.) Bernie Sanders and promoted by Congresswoman (Alexandria) Ocasio-Cortez. And what I would say is because of the change of control of Senate, Bernie Sanders will be the budget committee's chair for the Senate. I really think that completely changes the outlook from a few weeks ago. COME BACK new developments to have public housing also address maintenance and customer service housing as a human right

. . .

To demolish or not

PROTEST TO NISIVOCCIA’S CONDO

Although the tone has changed from adversarial to cordial, housing activists and West Side preservationists aren’t completely on board with the new plan.

SAHA intends to demolish and rebuild the Alazan Courts over phases that would span many years. Hinojosa said the barracks-style units are in too bad shape to rehab, which is what preservationists prefer????.

"I toured the units ... the bathrooms are small and substandard by today’s standards, and very industrial looking," he said. "The rooms are small. The closet and storage space is small. The unit I went into had a space underneath the stairwell; in fact the stairwell is very steep and narrow. There was a space underneath the stairwell made to accommodate the washing machine, and also halfway in that space and halfway in the living room there was a manhole cover. And the manhole cover was used to access underneath the homes, the plumbing and electrical. Those just aren’t today’s standards, and we really think that our residents deserve better than that. So our intention would be to demolish and rebuild based on today’s standard with proper amenities."

SAHA is currently building a mixed-income community adjacent to Alazan Courts called The Legacy at Alazan, which will be able to house some of the residents who will have to move before demolition begins. SAHA is also considering building housing on the baseball field on the Apache side of Guadalupe Street, which bisects the two communities.
/// 40 units of public housing
/// Apache 200 units

"We would use that for staging people so they can move out as we rebuild certain sections," he said.

"What we’re going to do first is engage our residents in the process and see what works for them," he said.

Leticia Sanchez, a West Side activists and co-chair of the Historic Westside Residents Association, said she was relieved when she learned SAHA intends to keep Alazan’s residents on the site. "We just didn’t want to lose our residents, and we also didn’t want our schools and churches to be affected by the loss of our community members," she said.

But she also cast concern about SAHA’s plan to demolish the circa-1940 buildings, which preservationists say are part of the West Side’s cultural identity.

"It just seems always we have people with money come in and tear down buildings and structures that, even though they may not appear to be in great condition and meaningful to anyone else, they do mean a lot to our community," said Sanchez, who’s also a member of the Westside Preservation Alliance. "It’s a blow to us to hear that SAHA still plans to raze them."

»»»»» L SANCHEZ POINT ABOUT SAN JUAN

and then also as a person who lieves in a green comm,. and not just me, our association hates waste, we want money to be well spent, and we know that it’s more expensive to tear down, remove and build a new structure, we want saha to consider rehabilitating the buildings because structures like that arne’t made any more as we see with the Garden at San Juan, they have only been around for 6 years and already they show major signs of ware. and that’s just because construciton isn’t made the way it used to nbe. the materials that were used are not long lasting, and so we don’t want there to be more destruction in that it would cost more money. oh now we have to talk about moving people again, because the structure is falling apart.

»»»»» SAHA REBUTTAL // use GONZALES

"I’m grateful that we’re not going to lose our residents, but at the same time it’s not the big win we were hoping for," Sanchez said.

It’s unclear whether housing advocacy in this city has reached the height that it has in modern times. Certainly, when the Wheatley Courts were being demolished, that plan didn’t
San Juan
Victoria Courts

. . .

Subhead

Hinojosa declined to give a timetable for when Alazan would be completed. By all accounts, it will be a process that will space many years.

"Our main concern is the residents and not displacing residents outside of Alazan, so that they stay in the community," Hinojosa said. "At this point I don’t know if the reconstruction will occur in groups of 15 units, 60 units, 70 units. A lot of that is going to drive the timeline—how big of a piece we can manage—and we want to work through that with our residents."

TIMELINE DEPENDS ON FUNDING

/// FUNDING

GONZALES

they have not presented an alternative, but that alternative does depend very heavilty on the new admin to support public housing
and it will eventually depend very heaivluy on the city to subsidize it as well

POSSIBLY COSA

PP —— Green New Deal

While preservationists like Sanchez are only somewhat satisfied with the new direction, others like District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales are completely against it. Gonzales, who will term out this May after four consecutive terms as the near West Side’s council representative, pointed to SAHA’s push for the redevelopment of Alazan; originally the agency was trying to land a Choice Neighborhood grant, an program under President Obama that sought to de-concentrate public housing and replace it with mixed-income communities, but in a more humane way by providing social workers for those being displaced, and services inside the new communities for lower-income families.

"You know that this project was a very long time in the making, and I believe one of the reasons why it was ever even considered was since I got on the council, I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on SAHA to improve the living conditions of the people who are living at Alazan Courts."

"The new products SAHA is building bare beautiful and modern and having that level of quality in a product is very uplifting for people."

THINKING BEHIND HOPE VI & CHOICE

GONZALES /// those things about people being very much in arreas is not new
that’s not new information, we know that people that are in very poor situations are often in aarreas with all of their bills
i think that was always presented, the extent of the poverty
people in those situations are
but keeping them poor and keeping them in substandard housing, that doesn’t revolve anything, that just continues to perpetuate the issue

that particular model, of concentrating poor people

we do have to have some way of getting mixed incomes

that was part of the model

HINOJOSA —— FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS

Q: If I could also say, what’s happening nationally is a change in conversation about public housing. If you talk with Dr. Christine Drennon from Trinity University (director of the urban studies program) she will say that this philosophy of de-concentrating poverty was a process that started in the '90s and for over 20 years, we as a country believed that it was best to put poor people with others of different income levels.

There’s new evidence—Christine is more an expert at this than I am—that suggests that that theory that started in the late '90s was inaccurate and was a faulty assumption. And today, the growing belief is that the most important thing is housing stability. For an individual that’s poor and perhaps their family’s in crisis, the best thing for them is housing stability, not the location of the housing.

And that’s what will help them achieve some sort of stability in their lives and be able to improve their lives, based on that conversation that’s changing nationally, and locally. And I think that’s kind of the backdrop of one of the other factors that’s playing into the decision here.

/// QUOTE DRENNON’S PIECE

/// QUOTE THOSE WHO BACK MIXED-INCOME

/// GONZALEZ

and this model of concentrated poverty just doesn’t exist anymore

the fed gvt in decades hasn’t funded a project that concentrates poverty in one area

of course ive had a relationship with saha all these years, sometimes contentious but always open

i have never met ed hinojosa

then the new chairperson, . . . who should be ont he board, i just felt like without consulting anyone, in ternally, they made this executive decsion which they have the full auhtoryt to do, tbu it’s just not the way i expected coperation to happen

/// MORE GONZALES

i feel like it was a haste decision by the board and by the chair, and by the director, after many many years of trying to get specifically the alazan courts to a standard of living that people can be proud of

it has caused me a trenemdous amoutn of heartache
tormentend by this decvision
i felt like we were on the right path

OPTION TO COME BACK

GONZALES /// displacing anybody for any reason is going to be very traumtic, and we’re goig to have to support them during that transition.

i think that’s really important, one of the things that has to be mentioned . . . how many people wanted to come back . . .many people with eh voucher, were ok with their new place. i thnk it depends, people i know were given the option to come back

we can learn from what happend at wheatley, it’s been quite a few years now. one of those examples, was building the other propertioes close by so that they could stay in the N, and particularly ikn the schools. esp we know that alazan has a lot of families, and those families could stay in the same school if they wanted to

???? gentrification

GONZALES

/// 70% of all building in th district, that’s housing, office, residential, MF, was built before 1970. if you want to move into my district, you really have very few options. i think that’s a very important as we’re tryig to dev other buildings. other development. we do want people that have a cvhoice to come live here too. i really believed in the model that we were working on. it’s not perfect, but at least we were heading in a direcito to support individuals for a better quality of life

GONZALES

ACTIVISTS FORCED THE DECISION

they made a decision based on what i blieve was pressure from activists, the majority of whom don’t live there.

GONZALES
HER PROGRAMS — addressing gentrification
NOW WE’RE STARTING OVER

. . .

Other directives

Hinojosa said SAHA is now committed to maintaining the public housing at SAHA’s other communities, such as Cassiano and Lincoln.

"Yes, we’re committed to our residents and think it’s going to be an important factor at both of those locations," he said.

In recent years, SAHA has taken some heat for partnering with for-profit developers

developers tax breaks

///

Q: What about other partnerships that the housing authority has pursued. There’s the one with the Lynd Company near the Pearl. The St. John’s Square in which David knew the developer because they both lived at the Steel House Lofts. What’s the future of these types of public-private partnerships?

A: Let me separate the transactions where we have residents like Alazan, Lincoln and Cassiano, as you also mentioned. Those properties as you know have to all be improved and reinvested in. The approach we’re taking with Alazan is very important to us. It’s very important for us to protect our residents and prevent their displacement outside of the area. And I hadn’t mentioned this before, there’s also an initiative by the mayor’s office, an anti-displacement policy that has been drafted, and it’s being circulated for comment. It’s also coming into play with our thinking.

That’s one kind of deal where we have residents and we don’t want to displace anybody.

The other transactions you mentioned are new construction that’s going in on vacant land. We very much value the partnerships we have with Lynd Co., NRP, at St. John’s Square. And those will all bring additional affordable housing to San Antonio. Those transactions are different in that they are not displacing people.

Q: Some of those are PFC deals where developers are getting a full property tax exemption. Is SAHA going to continue those types of agreements where half is market-rate and the other half is 80% AMI, maybe a little bit of 60%?

A: I think what you’ll see is SAHA going to push to get more public housing created in any new transactions that we pursue. Our public housing inventory is about 6,000 units, including Alazan. We believe there’s a tremendous need in San Antonio. There’s a law called the Faircloth Amendment that only allows us to rebuild public housing, which we’ve removed. Under that law, we can build another 1,800 units of public housing. So we will pursuing all avenues to increase the amount of public housing in San Antonio. That’s what we’re going to be asking in new transactions, in new deals that come forward.

There’s also a discussion nationally of repealing the Faircloth Amendment, and providing better funding to enable it to come to fruition. We’re going to be watching that very closely as well.

Q: SAHA moving away from partnering???

A: In any new deals, we would try to put public housing into them. Refugion,
just south of hemisfair
it has i believe 40 units of public housing.
About a 200 unit complex
Rest is affordable
You’ll see we’ll try to insert

Q: Refugio done at expense of Victoria Courts, Done along time ago.
Before you were saying, the public housing that exists now
On new construction, on land that is current vacant or unused
You want to incorporate public housing

A: That will be how we change the new deals coming out.

Q: Do you think developers will go for that?

A: You’re right, but up to now we’ve been pushing for 30% units which are not exactly like public housing but serve many of the same clientele as public housing. Many of our current developers already have and allow section 8 vouchers into their developments. Those individuals with vouchers can be 30%, 40%, 50% income level individuals. I dont’ think they would be opposed to the concept.

Q: Lynd partnership.
If that development will accept the Seciton 8 voucher

A: It’s my understanding that all of our dev accept section 8 vouchers. I’d have to look into that, but that’s generally what we require

Q: 8:45

A lot of complaints leveled toward saha, having to do with living conditions.

A: Two things

I had a meeting with a group of tenants on Friday, the intention was to listen to their concerns. There are concerns raised about maintenance. It’s a whole separate discussion. At the time, ??? started going toward mixed-income communities, that philosophy 20 years ago, there was also push to defund public housing that started at the same time. It was an effort to push housing authorities into another model. So, over the last 20-25 years, we have been severely underfunding both on operations and on capital investment, and I think that factor is changing under the current discussions in Washington. The discussions that are happening are that public housing should be fully funded, voucher funding should be increased significantly. And the capital backlog that is $70B across the country should be completely funded. That’s another factor we hadn’t talked about. I’m optimistic that the funding situation is going to change quickly and that will enable us to address many of the maintenance issues. A lot of them are money based. Some are pandemic based. Because of the pandemic we are only responding to emergency work orders ….. 12:00

The other issue of customer service we need to continue to address.

Within saha, and at a national level, we keep hearing that housing is a human right, and as an org we believe that, and so internally we are starting a discussion about that and what it means for us and our opertiaons

You asked about eh beaucraticness

Some of our procedures were put in place 20 years ago, we need to revisit all of that

When we do it in the context of housing as a human right we think it’s giving us the proper context.

///

GET SOME CHA

"I’m much more supportive of Ed’s," Guzman said.

“On a good year, we receive $13 million a year (from HUD) for our full portfolio,” he said. “Once you strip away some soft costs and a loan the agency took out on that program years ago, we have about $7-$8 million to spread across 6,000 public housing units. If you take the average cost of wanting to renovate or fix up versus redevelop, about $100,000 per unit, at 500 units: that’s $50 million. That would be about 10 full years of our capital fund program and ignoring the rest of our portfolio. I want all the residents to know and understand: We’re not ignoring Alazan. It’s just a financial challenge. … The deterioration of Alazan has been happening over 20-30 years.”

. . .

SAHA leadership

brought on the question: who runs SAHA

Hinojosa response

What Nisivoccia said …

CHA THIS THIS

///

i developed this with him. This is a dev that the board and staff kind of seeing how we really had not given the comm a view of what the new alazan would look like, that we thought we needed to rethjink it, and give them a better view on . . .we also came to the determination that it really needed to be 500 units instead of less. and that, there’s enough low income comm that we needed to keep them low income, i thnk that the staff was listening to the comm, theboard was listening to the comm, and we jept kind of really taking to heart and trying to understand and see if there was any way that we could change it, and the only way to change it was to not go through with nrp as th eplans had been estabnlished. and modified in a way that would cost more money but would respohnd to the comm better.

if i can remember, i would tell you, but i think ed is much more ammeanable to rethinking and ed began meeting with the comm right after david left and kind of began to understandf how important this was. i htink ed being open to what the comm was saying and me being worried at not having listened, and then our meeting, we just said, ok

///

THEN THIS

we need new building that will focus on safety, on the children being safe.

and so, theyre still not going to be happy with us

i’m so very happy. i dont think they understdoo

we’re going to bjuild one building a sample building so that alazan apache comm see what they’re getting before we start razing any of the buildings, so that they see, we thjought that would really make a difference. uinderstanding our comm has been promised a lot, and many peopoe have come short from their promises, we understand why we aren’t being believed that this is going to be a beautiful safe comm for the alazan residents. if we build a sample building, then they will see what’s coming for them

and i think that will raise their trust and move some of the comm into the new building as they move out from the old units

we thought that would be a better approach.

MORE CHA

i just think studying the situation gave us a greater understanding of how we needed to go about it. i think really, kind of pinpointing, what are the things that we need to change. there are multiple crosspoints, and so ed is the money guy. he was the cfo for 12 years, and ed said, we can afford this dr guzman, it was jiust kind of sitting with the staff and gaining a broader understanding of what we could do. and i think just kind of being able to study things, helped us come to a better understanding ofg what we shoudl be doing

i really do think that ed has made a huge difference

there was a call in, they called in,

Sofia Lopez

called in, and said how happy she was that she had changed, and some of the other people called in, i just, as chair of saha, i try to listen, but let the staff dicsuss, because that’s their responsibillity more than mine. i htink mine is more listening

CHA COMPROMISE

that’s why we’re not coming off, we are not chanigng our mind in the most important thing, and the most important thing is that the children and famlies of alazan get a place that they feel proud of living in and that can be safe for them, and that can be comfortable for them, which is not now

and we researched anmd beyond the doubt there is no way to make those safe and comfortable for the children and the parents

so what we tried to do is listen to the groups, and then listen to the alazan residents hwo in my estimation are the most important because they know what it is like to live there. and some up witht the things that make sense, just devoted to low income and now have the rent levels. have more units rather than less units. the things that the groups were suggesting made sense. we adipted, mainly more units, and low income, those two things made tremendous sense to us in thinking it through

CHA’s LETTER

JUNE COMMENTS — The purpose of SAHA is to house the poor.

seemingly the shift

im not sure, i thnk that in
i had just joined the board
as i have seen saha, and i have studied rthe needs of san antonio, i too have grown, and that’s what i always try to do, i walsys try to learn as i’m working, because i think it’s important, and i do still believe that our main mission is to house the poor. and i believe that the biden admin and i am a yellow dog democratic to the end, you must understand, i thin kthat the trump admin may have given options to david’s way of doig it, but it hinkt hte research also has shown that in fact the low income, there’s so much homelessnes than thtere used to be and there’s such great need that we really need to concentrate on the needs.

the more we know,we may be changing some of the ways things were being done because were utilizing informtation and the believe of a new admin as guidepoints, and that’s what i . . . i mean an institution that doesn’t grow and learn is an institition that will die

we want to be the kind of institution that will grow and learn, and that causes changes.

we’re working hard and i think that
i have great hope for this new admin, to kind of understand the needs of the homeless and poor, and to help grow more housing in the u.s. not jkust in san antonio.

Q: scathing letter

A: i talked with graciela a couple of weeks ago, g sanchez from esperanza. And she brought up the letter to me. I was not aware of it before except what i had read in the news. It was in the news, and so I was just tangentially aware of it

We were meeting about other issues, and i mentioned to you that i’m listen to our comm
Listen to her concerns about alazan
I basically told her, it wouldn’t have gotten to that point with me, we would have been able to just pick up the phone and talk to each other.

HINOJOSA TRANSITION

Q: I have to push back in that there are people who believe the complete opposite of what you’re saying. I would put David Nisivoccia in that category. Again, this new direction is a complete 180 from what he was proposing. I guess I would just ask you again, is this as simple as (Nisivoccia), when he was CEO, thought of Hope VI and Obama’s Choice neighborhoods as the way to go, and now you’re coming in and you agree with the opposite approach?

A: I think maybe you’re reading a little more into it. I’ll tell you this work on Alazan started a year and a half ago, and that was before Covid. That was before the economic crisis. That was before these discussions about public housing and increasing the inventory of public housing were happening. It was also before some of these discussions about whether de-concentration is better than not having concentration. All of those factors are happening. And if you ask me, I’m working with a futurist on another project. What I’ve learned from him is that these times of crisis, whether it’s the pandemic or the economic crisis or the unemployment crisis, because people are unable to pay their rent, all of these things come together and they accelerate change at a rate that is faster than what would normally happen.

I think I can answer your questions this way: It was going to happen anyway. But the fact that all of these factors sort of put pressure on change maybe caused it to happen quicker.

Q: And you’re saying these conversations were happening before David left SAHA?

A: Yeah, and you know the board—I don’t know if people realize, but the committee was still deliberating on (Alazan Courts). There were no decisions made by the committee prior to David leaving. They ran 60 or 70 different forecasts about how to structure the deal. And so we live in interesting times. I keep reminding myself a year ago: Who would have thought about a rent moratorium?

Yes, but had Nisivoccia not left for Denver, would this new direction still be happening?

"Yeah, I think we’d still be having those same conversations," Hinojosa said. "I don’t doubt it."

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Timeline for the Gardens at San Juan
when were they demolished, when were they rebuilt?

Victoria Commons

are there others???

spreadsheet with the developments

Alazan
501 units
1,238 residents

Apache
184 units
599 residents

6,092 total number of public housing units
13,137 total number of public housing tenants (as of yesterday, Nov. 17)

Wheatley Park Senior Living - occupied @ 93.75%
44 units @ 60%AMI
28 units @ 50%AMI
8 units @ 30%AMI
80 Total Units

East Meadows II still remains under construction.

Park At Sutton Oaks - occupied @ 88.46%
46 units @ Market
88 units @ 60% AMI
25 units @ 50% AMI
49 units @ 30% AMI
208 Total Units

Gardens at San Juan Square - occupied @ 92.06%
189 units @ 60% AMI
63 units @ 30% AMI
252 Total Units

a move that was announced in early November.

FIND SAHA’S ANSWER TO ANNUAL HUD FUNDING

NISIVOCCIA QUOTE ABOUT THE LACK OF RESOURCES

RESERVES

QUOTE NISIVOCCIA

I started writing about the plan in 2017, when SAHA was attempting to redevelop San Antonio's oldest public housing stock under the U.S. Choice Neighborhood grant program. Conceived under President Obama, the program was intended as a more humane way of razing concentrations of public housing, and replacing them with mixed-income developments. But the way SAHA handled the conversion of Wheatley Courts into the mixed-income East Meadows on the East Side a few years prior—which, to date, has been San Antonio's only Choice redevelopment—rankled many housing observers. Many characterized Wheatley Courts residents as being displaced by the redevelopment and scattered across the city, sometimes finding themselves in worse situations than they had been in at Wheatley. SAHA later admitted uprooting those households at once was a mistake. Only about a fifth of the 248 households returned to live in the new digs at East Meadows.

Other public housing communities, such as Victoria Courts and the San Juan Homes, were also razed and redeveloped into newer mixed-income communities in the last 20 years.

The Alazan Courts strategy would be different, SAHA said. The agency proposed to demolish the 31 units and rebuild in phases, which would allow residents presumably the chance to occupy some of the newer-built SAHA housing nearby on the West Side while a new community was gradually going up on the Alazan site. Or, residents could take their chances with a voucher. Housing advocates said the move still amounted to displacement, because of the impact it would have on fragile low-income families. The strategy to de-concentrate public housing was embraced by former SAHA President and CEO David Nisivoccia, who often clashed with housing activists over how best to redevelop Alazan. The activists said Alazan should be rehabbed, not demolished. In early January, Nisivoccia left SAHA to become the chief executive at the Denver Housing Authority. New at the helm is interim SAHA President and CEO Ed Hinojosa Jr., who has completely changed the strategy for Alazan.

Now the plan is for SAHA to self-develop Alazan, while keeping residents in on the site. This means SAHA has disengaged with developer NRP Group on the project.

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

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