One of the new apartment buildings at the Park at Sutton Oaks. Photo courtesy of SAHA.
One of the new apartment buildings at the Park at Sutton Oaks. Photo courtesy of SAHA.

City Council approved two plans on Thursday, required by the federal government, that together will set priorities and goals for how more than $89 million from four housing-related programs will be disbursed over the next five years.

The Council unanimously passed both a consolidated plan lasting Fiscal Years 2016 through 2020, and an action plan effective for FY 2016. A fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires a consolidated plan that lays out priorities and goals for the following four HUD entitlement grants that the City receives: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Home Investment Partnership Grant (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Grant (HOPWA).

The City estimates $89.8 million in total grant funding with $52.4 million in federal resources, which is anticipated to be available for local programs over the next five years. As for the rest of the $37.4 million, $23.9 million will be used to repay the HUD 108 Loan, and $13.5 million for administrative functions. The 108 Loan is a capital improvement loan meant to benefit low to moderate income individuals.

The action plan identifies all actions the City undertakes in a fiscal year related to these housing programs. HUD asks that such activities align with the goals stated in the consolidated five-year plan. The City has determined the community’s most pressing needs in various ways, including holding public meetings, surveying individuals affected by these housing grants, and gathering information from local service providers.

Forty-two businesses, public agencies, educational institutions and nonprofits served as stakeholders in developing the consolidated and action plans. Such stakeholders included Broadway Bank, SAMMinistries, San Antonio Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, Haven for Hope, Project Quest, University of the Incarnate Word, and St. PJ’s Children’s Home. John Dugan, director of city Planning and Community Development, briefly explained to the Council the basics behind the action and consolidated plans.

John Dugan City of San Antonio planning and community development director talks with a guest. Photo by Scott Ball.
John Dugan, City of San Antonio planning and community development director, talks with an attendee at a recent event. Photo by Scott Ball.

“The main concerns and priorities identified are to provide decent, safe and affordable housing, revitalization of low-income neighborhoods, addressing special needs of youth, housing support for the homeless, and providing economic development,” Dugan said on Thursday.

Provision of what Dugan called safe, decent, affordable housing represents 46% – the largest chunk – of the combined five years’ worth of program funding in the consolidated plan. The City projects a total of $23.8 million, in this case, available for rehabilitating existing housing stock, building new affordable single-family housing, providing homebuyer assistance, developing new affordable rental housing, and furthering fair housing opportunities.

Neighborhood revitalization, the second biggest priority with $15.5 million in funding over the next five years, calls for the creation of mixed-income neighborhoods and improving neighborhood connectivity.

Supporting youths’ special needs, at $7.3 million, includes housing and services for individuals with HIV or AIDS. Homeless housing support, at $4.9 million, involves preventing at-risk individuals from becoming homeless. The fifth and final priority, related to economic development, includes $1 million to support financial literacy training.

Dugan said the FY 2016 action plan budget has $18.4 million “allocated between the Community Development Block Grant, Home Investment Partnership Grant, Emergency Solutions Grant, and the HOPWA AIDS program.”

In the next fiscal year, CBDG would receive $11.8 million, HOME would get $4.3 million, ESG with $1.02 million, and HOPWA with $1.21 million. Overall, the $18.4 million is a $1.25 million decrease from the current Fiscal Year 2015 action plan budget. Dugan said this represents the streamlining of priorities identified by stakeholders.

While they backed the overall action and consolidation plans, council members such as Rebecca Viagran (D3), Cris Medina (D7) and Shirley Gonzales (D5) had questions about the effectiveness of the HOPWA funds. These monies support rental assistance, counseling, healthcare, life skills, short-term housing, transportation and other services for clients.

Specifically, the concerned council members said they are aware of recent publicity surrounding the San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF), where David Ewell was suddenly fired as executive director earlier this spring. An interim successor, Jack Downey, was later caught on camera arguing with a foundation volunteer whose cousin died at the SAAF residence. A KSAT-TV report highlighted turmoil involving some past and present SAAF board members, volunteers, doctors and nurses who tend to residence patients.

District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran addresses the crowd gathered for the Mission Reach opening ceremony. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Councilmember Rebecca Viagran (D3). File photo by Iris Dimmick.

“The house for AIDS patients, I know it’s important, but who exactly gets this money?” Viagran asked City staff.

“This will ensure patients get all that they need,” replied Melody Woosley, director of the City’s Human Services Department. Woosley acknowledged the publicity surrounding SAAF, but added, “We monitor all agencies and programs receiving these funds and found there were no problems with the fiscal operations.”

“Their concerns had to do with management of the program, making sure people get the right care, the overall executive director and an interim director stepped in,” Dugan said. “The Council just wants to be sure we have good management for the people getting those services.”

“We just want to see the City helps get out these funds in the most caring way possible,” Viagran added.

Also, the City, through a campaign that officials call REnewSA, will seek to emphasize seven areas in need of all services available from the four federal grants over the next two fiscal years. These neighborhoods – Five Points, South San/Kindred, Las Palmas, Avenida Guadalupe, Wheatley, Harlandale and Edgewood – were chosen based on what stakeholders found in the way of real estate market conditions, urban form and community investment.

*Featured/top image: One of the new apartment buildings at the Park at Sutton Oaks. Photo courtesy of SAHA.

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Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.