The City’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department is hosting two additional public input meetings to gather feedback on its proposed displacement prevention policy.

The City budgeted $1 million for a “risk mitigation fund,” as proposed by the mayor’s housing policy task force, and charged the housing department with formulating a plan that effectively distributes that funding.

The draft policy is still being tweaked, but the department settled on three main ways to distribute the money, NHSD Assistant Director Michael Rodriguez said. The department will propose expanding emergency rental assistance, a program that has been in place for about one year. The policy also will suggest providing financial assistance to people who see significant and sudden increases in rent, and to those who are displaced when new  development takes over their apartment building or mobile home park.

Verónica Soto, director of the City of San Antonio’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

NHSD Director Verónica Soto said her department originally planned for three public meetings in the fall, but decided to schedule two more in January to gather more public input.

“It’s very important to get as many voices [as we can] to tell us the best ways to address this issue,” Soto said.

Soto said her team also has met with various stakeholder groups, such as homeless service providers and fair housing activists, and convened focus groups in addition to the meetings in the fall.

“We’re very grateful,” she said. “Many people have come to more than one meeting.”

Rodriguez said previous meetings have been well attended, estimating that between 50 and 100 residents have shown up to each one. Feedback from each meeting matched what the housing department expected would be discussed, Rodriguez said.

The meetings “really pinpointed the amount of money the community wanted to place in certain areas,” he said. “It also gave us guidelines. What are the trigger points on when we should assist residents?”

Attendees consistently said serious illness, losing a job, and high medical bills all contribute to displacement risk, Rodriguez said.

Soto said the housing department will present a final draft policy citizens can give feedback on at a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 16, starting at 5:45 p.m. at the Ella Austin Community Center, 1023 N. Pine St. The department plans to bring a proposal to City Council in February to review and vote on, Rodriguez said.

The final public meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 28, at 5:30 p.m. at the Urban Ecology Center at Phil Hardberger Park.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.