A public nonprofit created to incentivize affordable housing in San Antonio has six new community members on its board after City Council approved the list on Thursday.

The new members are the final part of a lengthy board restructuring process aimed at increasing community participation and clarity in the San Antonio Housing Trust and its affiliated entities.

Mortgage lender Antoinette Brumfield, San Antonio Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper and Jane Paccione, who oversees the San Antonio Area Foundation’s initiative on aging, will serve terms on the board ending in 2023.

Rachell Hathaway, Kronkosky Charitable Foundation program manager; Jordan Ghawi, director of Strategic Initiatives and Government Relations at STRAC; and Marinella Murillo, who serves on the San Antonio Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO, will serve terms ending in 2025.

“When you look at the lens that our new board members are going to look at housing [with] … we have a wonderful perspective that’s now going to be influencing how we approach our work,” housing trust Executive Director Pete Alanis told the San Antonio Report. “[Council] could have picked another six off the list of all the folks that were recommended. And it would have still been great because there were some fantastic, fantastic folks who went through the process.”

The new community members will join the council members who serve on the board: Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2), Phyllis Viagran (D3), Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), Teri Castillo (D5) and John Courage (D9).

The new board structure was approved last June, two years after a study by the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) found little coordination among the housing trust itself, the San Antonio Housing Trust Foundation, the San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corporation, and the San Antonio Housing Trust Finance Corporation. The result, the study found, was a lack of common goals as well as “real and perceived imbalance of authority” between elected officials and appointed citizens that comprise their boards.

The boards were realigned and consolidated to form one single board that can still perform the same funding and bonding actions of each entity, Alanis said.

“Now that there is this unified board with the same members across all four entities, we can look at utilizing the tools of the four entities in a more uniform, balanced, purposeful, strategic way,” he said.

But the selection procedure took five months longer than expected after questions about conflict of interest arose in the process.

The Housing Trust and its affiliated entities formed a Joint Transition Committee (JTC) in September 2020 to facilitate the transition to the new board structure. The committee reviewed 36 applications and shortlisted 10 candidates.

However, one of the applicants, housing and planning consultant Paul DeManche, also served on the transition committee as a member of the trust. DeManche recused himself from voting, but participated in some discussion on other candidates.

That raised a conflict-of-interest red flag for City Attorney Andy Segovia, so an ad-hoc committee was formed to review the 36 applications and compile a shortlist of its own.

In an effort to be fair, Alanis said, both lists of candidates were considered by the Council’s Governance Committee last month. Two candidates withdrew their applications. Four candidates made both shortlists and were ultimately selected: Cooper, Murillo, Hathaway, and Ghawi. Paccione and Brumfield were on the ad-hoc committee’s shortlist.

But the ad-hoc committee’s discussions were not posted as public meetings on the city’s website, which DeManche criticized last month.

“The Trust needs to do everything it can to rebuild the trust [of the community] that it lost over the decades,” DeManche told the San Antonio Report last month.

In the wake of criticism from housing advocates that the trust hasn’t sought projects that meet lower affordability thresholds, the new board structure comes with a new statement of purpose:

“The San Antonio Housing Trust will be committed to creating and preserving housing that is primarily affordable, accessible, attainable, and/or sustainable to residents in the City of San Antonio; and to support community development efforts that build and sustain neighborhood, empower residents, and provide for positive equitable outcomes.”

Alanis, who became executive director of the trust in 2019, said he’s glad the restructuring process is nearly over. There is still paperwork that needs to be filed with the state.

“I’m really hopeful for the future,” he said. “I really take a deep breath whenever I say that, because it’s finally here, it’s finally done.”

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