With an increase of more than $17 million in local funding for affordable housing rehabilitation and creation initiatives this year, the City of San Antonio is adding more staff and resources to its Neighborhood and Housing Services Department (NHSD).

City Council’s Comprehensive Plan Committee on Wednesday reviewed progress made over the first two months of fiscal year 2019 in the three-year affordable housing business plan developed as a result of the Mayor’s Housing Task Force recommendations, which were adopted by City Council in September and funded through this year’s budget.

Twelve out of 13 hires have been made, public meetings have been held, and more will take place to establish a $1 million risk mitigation fund to combat housing displacement,  NHSD Director Veronica Soto said.

As applications for home rehabilitation and roof repair programs continue to pour in, the department this year is poised to fix 81 homes for qualifying low-income residents thanks to a $5.2 million funding boost. Last year, 21 homes received funding through the City’s Owner Occupied Rehabilitation program.

The homebuyer assistance program has approved or pre-approved 24 loans for low-income residents looking to purchase a home so far, and its goal is to close 265 more loans, according to City documents. .

Hundreds of San Antonians have applied for home rehabilitation; so far the department has been able to find 57 residents that qualify for the program – 10 shy of the two-month goal, Soto told the five-member committee on Wednesday.

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Now that the department is almost fully staffed, Soto said, “they can help us catch up.”

The Under 1 Roof program, which received an additional $1 million from philanthropist Kym Rapier to bring its total to $5.25 million, finished 33 of the 40 projects it was set to complete in October and November. The 2019 goal is to complete 400 roof repairs or replacements.

The contractor performing that work lost 13 workdays due to rain during that time, Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni told the Rivard Report, “but the City asked them to work some weekends [if weather permits].”

Three public meetings were held in October to collect resident input on how to best use the $1 million “risk mitigation fund” called for in the City’s new housing policy, and a draft plan is being finalized, Zanoni said. Two meetings with “focus groups” comprised of affordable housing builders, related nonprofits, and other groups took place in November, he said, and at least one more will be held in January.

After hearing that some community members hadn’t heard of the public input meetings, Soto said, another will be scheduled in January.

The City has hired a consultant to help recruit its first “housing administrator” to oversee the forthcoming coordinated housing system, aimed at facilitating better data collection and communication across public and private sectors related to affordable housing. That position is not the top-level executive, or so-called “Housing Czar,” envisioned in the task force’s policy recommendation, Zanoni and Soto explained, but it will be a high-level position. The executive position is likely at least two years away from being created – after the City has ramped up its affordable housing initiatives.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org