San Antonio City Council members will discuss Wednesday whether to approve proposed revisions to two downtown residential development programs. The biggest changes include redefining and expanding incentives outside the city’s urban core to 13 regional centers and making luxury housing ineligible.

Veronica Garcia, assistant director in Center City Development and Operations, will help brief Council members Wednesday. A vote by the full Council on implementing changes to the Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP) could come Thursday.

A public hearing on the changes is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in City Council chambers, and there already is opposition to the changes from at least one group.

The COPS/Metro Alliance plans a 1:30 p.m. news conference Wednesday outside the Municipal Plaza building to urge Council members to postpone a vote on CCHIP changes until January and seek more public input.

COPS/Metro said in a press release it is concerned the City is rushing through expansion of the program, few details have been offered about a proposed affordable housing fund, and no study has been done on displacement of residents caused by CCHIP since its inception in 2012.

Signs posted outside Dominion Church for the COPS/Metro Alliance's “get out the vote” rally.
A young girl stands next to signs posted outside Dominion Church during a COPS/Metro Alliance rally. Credit: Hannah Whisenant / San Antonio Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg suspended the CCHIP program and the Inner City Reinvestment and Infill Policy (ICRIP) in December 2017 to determine what impact the programs were having toward creating affordable housing and to modify them if necessary.

Garcia said the programs never were intended to be used to incentivize affordable housing. Nirenberg said his objective in pausing the programs has been met.

“I am satisfied that the plan being presented to council expands the goals of the program,” he said in a statement issued by his spokesman. “With the new proposal, we leverage the program for affordability throughout the city while continuing the development of a vibrant downtown.

“We will closely monitor the program to ensure it performs as intended.”

The proposed changes submitted to the Council, after multiple rewrites this year, include changing ICRIP’s name to the City of San Antonio Fee Waiver Program and making it available for use to developers citywide.

Garcia said while the area in which CCHIP incentives would be available downtown would shrink from 5 square miles to 2.6 square miles, her department is proposing a tiered incentives system that would expand the program beyond the city’s core to 13 targeted areas.

The proposal lists those regional centers as Brooks, the Greater Airport Area, Highway 151-Loop 1604, Lackland AFB-Port San Antonio, Northeast I-35-Loop 410, Medical Center, Midtown, Stone Oak, Texas A&M-San Antonio, and University of Texas at San Antonio. The program would also expand to parcels of land within one-quarter mile of transportation corridors identified in the VIA 2040 Plan.

  • Tier 1 would cover everywhere within .91 miles of the Central Business District and provide maximum incentives to projects including an affordability component.
  • Tier 2 would require 10 percent of units committed to families making 60 percent of area median income (AMI) and 10 percent committed to families making 80 percent of AMI.
  • Tier 3 would require 20 percent of units committed to families making 60 percent of AMI and be limited to the 13 regional centers and VIA transportation corridors.

“We looked at where else we could have similar CCHIP incentives in other parts of the city where growth and density are desired,” Garcia said. “That’s why we’re proposing to add the Level 3 areas, which are the regional centers and transportation corridors.”

Garcia said CCHIP won’t be available in the regional centers until each has completed its public input and planning process and had its land use plans adopted by City Council. She said the first regional center could be approved in the spring and all 13 are expected to be approved by the end of 2019.

Downtown and the proposed Midtown regional center would become eligible for CCHIP incentives right away if the plan is adopted this week because those areas were part of the original policy, Garcia said.

The City would further target affordable housing projects by designating “25% of the ad valorem tax increment paid by the developer of a CCHIP project” to a fund set up for affordable housing, the proposal reads.

All projects eligible for the program will also receive City fee waivers as available through the City’s general fund.

If approved, CCHIP would exclude luxury housing units, defined as those for sale at a price above the Federal Housing Administration’s loan limit (currently $359,950), or rental housing with average rents above $2.75 per square foot.

Market-rate projects would still be eligible for CCHIP incentives under the revised policy.

“We do believe it is important to continue to build market-rate housing in our downtown,” Garcia said. “There is a need for that both from residents and from employers that are moving downtown.

“They want to have places for their employees to live near where they’re working.”

Garcia said in all the CCHIP community meetings she has attended, the issues stakeholders brought up most often relate to the lack of a City policy designed solely to focus on developing more affordable housing. Another big concern mentioned frequently is indirect displacement of residents by incentivized development and rapid neighborhood change. Garcia said Neighborhood and Housing Services is working to address that concern by developing a “resident relocation assistance ordinance.”

“We have communicated that the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department is working on that,” she said.

Kyle Ringo is a freelance journalist based in San Antonio. He has covered business, college athletics, the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball for numerous publications and websites.