As delinquency has spiked at its properties, the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) has offered to forgive 25% of rent due in June, while also contributing $350,000 to the city's cost of living emergency assistance fund during the coronavirus pandemic.
The moves come as SAHA, which manages 19,000 residents in public housing and mixed-income communities in San Antonio, has reported $1 million in lost revenue in April. The agency anticipates similar, if not larger, losses for May and subsequent months, a spokesman said.
Three weeks ago, the City Council earmarked $25 million to help San Antonians with cost of living expenses for those struggling during the crisis. The program, called the Covid-19 Emergency Assistance Program, has now received an additional $350,000 from SAHA, but those dollars can only be used for SAHA residents.
The city's program pays the rent or mortgage payment, as well as utilities, groceries and gas, for residents impacted by Covid-19 either because they've lost their job or had work hours reduced. An average of $1,393 has been distributed per household per month, city officials said in late April. Roughly $2.2 million was doled out and 1,400 applications were completed from March 16 through late April, they said.
Last week, SAHA's board of commissioners voted to allocate the $350,000, which is derived from the rehab of Whitefield Place apartments on the southeast side. The development fee in that transaction between SAHA and developer Related Companies (New York) is what's being rerouted to the city's emergency fund.
SAHA has also dedicated four staff members to help city officials review applications.
The number of San Antonians inquiring about the city's emergency assistance program has skyrocketed in recent months. Before the outbreak, the city was receiving 54 inquiries per week on average. In mid-April, the number had reached 5,300.
In late March, through the CARES Act, an eviction moratorium was placed on federal properties, including developments that received federal financing and subsidies, through July 24. However, in early March, SAHA took its own action by suspending evictions and late fees.
Last week, SAHA announced it was forgiving 25% of rent due in June for people living in public housing and in its mixed-income communities.
SAHA normally allows residents to set up repayment plans for late rent, a program that will resume after the CARES Act moratorium expires, the agency said.
"What we have said is, whatever the new norm of operation is going to be, we are going to help as many clients as we can with repayment agreements," said Brandee Perez, SAHA's chief operating officer.
SAHA tenants, whose median household income is roughly $10,000, can also make change of income requests, which impact their monthly rent, as a result of a lost job or reduced hours. Since mid-March, more than 100 public housing households and nearly 500 Section 8 voucher holders have submitted these requests, which SAHA says it's still processing.
"When Covid-19 really hit our city, we mailed out letters to all of our clients," Perez said. "We didn’t want them to forget that if they are experiencing a loss, please contact us because there are ways to help them."
Of SAHA's public housing units, which serve 13,000 people, delinquency jumped from an average monthly rate of 3.78% to 18.9% in April. The same month, at SAHA's mixed-income communities, the rate jumped from a normal 17% to 35%. SAHA receives about $2.74 million in rent from its properties, which is used to fund maintenance, renovations, and operations, the agency said.
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