Since the Emergency Housing Assistance Program launched last year, San Antonio has helped 45,099 households with direct rental or mortgage assistance and paying utility bills.

That translates to $132.6 million in housing-related assistance expended as of Aug. 19, said Edward Gonzales, assistant director of the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department. Gonzales briefed the City Council’s Planning and Community Development Committee at a meeting Thursday.

Most of the money spent thus far, $111 million, went to rental and mortgage assistance, Gonzales said. Of the remaining amount, $11 million went to CPS Energy for energy bills, just under $2 million went to the San Antonio Water System for water bills, and $500,000 for internet costs.

District 2 residents have received the most help through the program with 6,177 households receiving $17.7 million as of Aug. 19.

Emergency Housing Assistance Program as of Aug. 19, 2021

Council DistrictAverage AMI (%)Approved HouseholdsAverage Household SizeApproved Funding
127.2 4,1892$11,742,078
Total:45,099 $132,555,223
Courtesy of the City of San Antonio

Households under 50% area median income (AMI) can receive up to nine months of financial assistance through the program. Households between 50% and 80% AMI can receive up to six months of help. 

Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), who chairs the Planning and Community Development Committee, said she was “disappointed” that residents of District 5, which reported the lowest AMI, received the least amount of funding out of all the Council districts. That’s largely due to the amount of subsidized housing in the area, Gonzales said. The people living in those subsidized homes have other federal programs to help with housing costs.

Though the program was originally created to help residents within the San Antonio city limits, city staff expanded the eligibility criteria in January to include Bexar County. A total of 1,260 households in the county have since received assistance.

Additionally, more than 10,000 Bexar County households have been helped by the Texas Rent Relief Program. The state has provided $60.4 million so far to Bexar County residents through that program. Gonzales assured council members that people who receive funding from the city’s program have not already gotten help from the state’s.

He added that the emergency housing assistance program is no longer accepting applications for mortgage assistance, as the city’s proposed 2022 budget has separate funding allocated for that. The program will continue to pay for rental and utility assistance.

Councilman John Courage (D9) urged city staff to look toward any potential federal funding that could help with the emergency housing assistance program. He cited a New York Times news story reporting that 89% of federal emergency rental assistance dollars have not yet been distributed.

“Let’s do everything we can, if we can use more federal money and state money, which relieves the burden from our local resources and our local taxpayers and our local general fund,” he said.

The city does plan to pursue grant money to fund legal counsel services for residents faced with eviction, Gonzales said. The Right to Counsel program has served 903 households since it started, and since April, nearly all eviction cases brought to the program have been avoided. 

Though the number of eviction filings this year is still much lower than pre-pandemic, city staff does not expect that to last long.

“We do anticipate that the number of filings will increase by some percentage when the moratorium is lifted,” Gonzales said.

The eviction moratorium established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still in place as long as coronavirus transmission rates are high, Gonzales said. That moratorium is now set to expire in October.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to federal funding sources.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.