More than half the housing stock that four new developments will add to San Antonio’s downtown area will be categorized as affordable, according to City officials.

Since revamping the Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP), which in 2017 came under fire for incentivizing luxury housing, the City has deemed eligible four new projects totaling 528 units. Of those, 264 are reserved for affordable housing.

Prior to adopting the new CCHIP policy in December, City Council approved a new housing policy aimed at shrinking the divide between the cost of housing and what residents can afford.

“These projects align with the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force Report that was released in August 2018,” stated Mayor Ron Nirenberg, referring to the fruits of the yearlong effort by lawmakers, stakeholders, and the public to create the new policy.

When completed, Museum Reach Lofts, Cattleman Square Lofts, Augusta Apartments, and The Villas at Museum Reach will yield 515 multifamily rental units and 13 for-sale townhomes around the central business district. According to the City, they include:

  • 21 units reserved for households earning less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $53,440 for a family of four
  • 213 units reserved for families earning less than 60 percent of the AMI, or $40,080 for a family of four;
  • 25 units reserved for those earning less than 30 percent of the AMI, or $20,040 for a family of four;
  • four townhomes priced for families earning below 120 percent of the AMI.

“I am pleased to see that 238 of the 515 multifamily units will be reserved for families making less than 60 percent AMI, which is the level of affordability that we need in San Antonio,” Nirenberg said.

The median income for a household in San Antonio in 2017 was $50,044, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Affordable housing is essential to San Antonio’s workforce, particularly in the center city, Councilman Roberto Treviño, whose District 1 includes much of the urban core.

“Residents employed within downtown San Antonio’s robust tourism/service industry must have access to affordable housing,” Treviño said, “and I believe the downtown housing incentives … help accomplish just that.”

Incentives under the previous form of CCHIP and the formerly named Inner City Reinvestment/Infill Policy (ICRIP) helped drive the construction of thousands of new housing units in the last few years, mainly in the center city.

However, the lack of affordable rental and for-sale units in many of those developments spurred City officials to suspend the program and revise it to encourage the development of more affordable housing, and not just in the urban core.

CCHIP now includes a tiered, multi-level system that encourages affordable housing in appropriate areas inside and just outside the central business district and in the 13 regional centers defined in the SA Tomorrow plan as well as an emphasis on preservation of older homes eyed for demolition for multifamily units.

The layered incentives help reduce the overall costs developers face, Treviño said, especially in the case of affordable and workforce housing. A downtown street closed for construction on a development can cost as much as $300,000 in some cases, he explained.

“The CCHIP, when layered with other incentive programs at the state and federal level, provides an opportunity for developers to minimize development costs and construct true affordable housing,” Treviño said.

Expanding affordable housing outside of downtown, Council on Thursday approved the first affordable/workforce housing development under the voter-approved neighborhood improvements bond from 2017.

The site 3830 Parkdale Dr. near the South Texas Medical Center, which formerly hosted a country club and a nightclub, will become a 235-unit apartment complex serving families at 60 percent  AMI and below.

The City of San Antonio Fee Waiver Program now applies only to affordable housing, owner-occupied rehabilitation, historic rehabilitation, and small-business development, specifically long-established “legacy” businesses.

Here’s a breakdown of the four planned developments, according to the City:

Museum Reach Lofts

The Alamo Community Group’s (ACG) $17.5 million project will provide a total of 95 housing units at West Jones Avenue and North St. Mary’s Street.

Seventy-seven units will be reserved for families earning less than 60 percent AMI and nine units will be dedicated for people earning less than 30 percent of the AMI. The remaining units will be available at market rates.

Museum Reach Lofts, which received housing tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs last year, begins construction this spring and is expected to be finished by late 2020.

ACG, a nonprofit that develops, acquires, owns and manages affordable housing citywide, owns and maintains nine other properties.

“We pride ourselves on providing quality affordable housing that can be a catalyst for change,” said Jennifer Gonzalez, ACG executive director, said in a press release. “The CCHIP incentives, along with the other city and state tools, are vital to the financing of these projects.”

Cattleman Square Lofts

Another ACG project, the 160-unit project will be located just near UTSA’s Downtown Campus at 811 W. Houston St.

The project will allocate 136 units for families earning less than 60 percent AMI, and 16 units will be for families earning less than 30 percent AMI. The developer is seeking housing tax credits. The project is scheduled for completion by 2021.

Augusta Apartments

Dallas-based Stillwater Capital submitted an application for the 260-unit development, which will be built at 819 Augusta. The developer plans to set aside 13 units for households earning less than 80 percent of the AMI. The apartments are slated for completion by July 2021.

The Villas at Museum Reach

MGS Museum Reach submitted an application for the $3.5 million for-sale townhouse project on Dallas Street across from the Museum Reach Lofts.

Four units will be set aside for families earning below 120 percent of the AMI. The project is scheduled for completion later this year.

The City plans to make available CCHIP agreements with each development project on a publicly accessible online database by February.

Edmond Ortiz

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