Towne Center apartment complex.
City Council approves a third phase of funding for its housing assistance program instituted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The third phase of funding for the City’s housing assistance program totals about $24 million and is expected to last through mid-December under new rules determining who can receive help paying rent, mortgages, or utility bills.

Currently, the program is open to renters and homeowners earning the area median income (AMI) or less. On Thursday, City Council unanimously approved lowering that threshold to 80 percent of AMI, or $57,600 for a family of four. City officials said 96.6 percent of the more than 15,000 households who have received assistance since March earn 80 percent of AMI or less.

Starting in October, residents will receive two months’ worth of rental or mortgage assistance, compared to three months under the current program. Residents who earn less than 51 percent of AMI also qualify for utilities assistance. If they still need assistance after two months, they can receive a final stipend of up to $250 or $500, depending on their income.

Originally, City staff proposed even lower income thresholds, but Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other council members said eligibility for the program needed to remain open to people who need it.

In San Antonio, the area median income (AMI) is $72,000 for a family of four and $49,700 for an individual.

Council’s Culture and Neighborhood Services Committee will review an internal audit of the housing assistance fund to determine if the new eligibility requirements are effective and get a better idea of how quickly the fund’s money will run out, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who chairs that committee.

Treviño was concerned that limiting the assistance to two months will put some families in financial jeopardy. “Cutting that back could be very tragic for some,” he said.

As with previous phases of the assistance program, the third phase is a mix of local and federal money. Council approved $13.1 million of it in its fiscal year 2021 budget on Thursday. Another vote that followed approved another $11 million and changed eligibility requirements. With the newly approved funding, the City will distribute $76 million since March, making the program one of the largest of its kind in the country. 

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...