A vacant lot on 2335 E. Dakota St. Photo courtesy of Google Street View.
A vacant lot on 2335 E. Dakota St. Photo courtesy of Google Street View.

On Thursday, City Council unanimously approved the conveyance of 25 vacant, City-owned properties on the Eastside to be made available to San Antonio Affordable Housing, Inc. (SAAH) – 19 of those properties will be developed into affordable housing.

According to Debbie Racca-Sittre, former assistant director for the City’s transportation and capital improvements department, the remaining six of 25 properties are too small to be developed independently.

“Some of the properties are little strips of land that nobody can use for anything,” Racca-Sittre said. “They are called remnant properties and are usually around 400 sq. ft.”

Racca-Sittre said that SAAH wants to offer those remnant lots to adjacent property owners at a discounted price. “We just don’t want them to be vacant,” she said.

A map of the 25 vacant properties on the Eastside. Graphic courtesy of the City of San Antonio.
A map of the 25 vacant properties on the Eastside. Graphic courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

SAAH will work on the “buildable” properties with various developers and nonprofits to construct affordable homes. All properties are located within the District 2 Promise Zone.

SAAH was established in 1995 by City Ordinance as a nonprofit component of the City’s Office of Urban Renewal San Antonio (OURSA), formerly known as the San Antonio Development Association (SADA). Its mission, initially, was to develop affordable housing in targeted areas of the city, but their scope now includes technical and economic assistance to promote both affordable housing and business and commercial development.

Before City Council approval, Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) and Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) wanted to know how expensive the homes would be and asked if they would be available to people at the 80% Area Median Income (AMI).

“It has to be an affordable rate,” Racca-Sittre said. “(Around) $120,000 to $140,000 would be the maximum (price), and those houses have to be built to a particular standard.”

Any properties not acquired by SAAH or otherwise conveyed, will be sold through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or dealt with in other ways, according to State law.

Racca-Sittre said that SAAH has been working for more than a year to identify properties for redevelopmentall over the city and that District 2 had the most City-owned, vacant properties in all districts.

It’s no surprise that the need for affordable housing is a growing trend in San Antonio and that recent growth on the Eastside has caught the eye of many developers.

Racca-Sittre mentioned a collaboration program that SAAH has with NewLeaf Homes: if the developer is unable to sell its inner city homes on the Eastside, they will be donated to SAAH for more affordable housing development. The deal was approved by Council in April.

“(Getting rid of) vacant, City-owned properties is a win for the city,” Racca-Sittre told the Rivard Report. “We haven’t been getting anything out of them … just mowing the grass … it’s better for someone else to own the properties and pay taxes on them.”

The City’s new Housing Commission wants to counter the negative effects of gentrification and increase affordable housing options. It has proposed a $10-25 million affordable housing component for the City’s 2017 Municipal Bond. At $850 million, the bond is the largest in the city’s history.

(Read more: Housing Commission Moves Forward with Housing Bond Recommendations)

“The housing bond has to go through OURSA in order to be consistent with the City Charter,” Racca-Sittre told the Rivard Report. “So (the Housing Commission) will be very busy very soon.”

The Housing Commission was born from the Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods, and the City has never had a proposed housing bond, so the 15-member committee is going into complicated, unchartered waters. In order to achieve many of the commission’s goals, a charter amendment will be required.

City Council recently reviewed a rough draft of priorities for the forthcoming 2017 Bond, which has to go through a public vetting process and City Council approval before citizens have a say in May 2017.


Top image: A vacant lot on 2335 E. Dakota St.  Photo courtesy of Google Street View.

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