SA program aims to repopulate inner-city areas

Tax-funded program offers city employees first-time homebuyer incentives

SAN ANTONIO - Dilapidated, vacant homes are an all too familiar site in the inner city as a growing number of people have been moving out of the area.

Lori Houston, with the City of San Antonio Center City Development Office, said the most recent census numbers show a decrease in the inner-city population.

"There is a focus on revitalizing our downtown area and we have several wonderful neighborhoods surrounding the downtown and we'd like to repopulate those areas," said Houston.

The newest plan is to try and attract city employees to the area by offering a break on loans.

First-time homebuyers could receive forgivable loans for $5,000 to $10,000 dollars. If they stay employed with the city for five years, the loan will be forgiven.

The catch is it's only available for homes purchased in the inner-city, between Hildebrand, Division, 24th Street and Walters.

A total of $240,000 has been allocated to the Home Ownership Program for Employees, or "HOPE."

That money is part of the $3 million set aside in the 2012 fiscal budget for revitalization in the inner-city.

Inner-city homeowner Tom Hager said he welcomes the program, despite the fact that it's paid for with taxpayer money.

"What's that adage? 'Rising tides lifts all boats?'" he said. "An improved neighborhood makes life better for schools for children, for grandparents, for homeowners."

Homeowner Santiago Rivera agreed.

"It would be nice," he said. "Homes could be built up a little more."

Houston said the program is based on models that have been successful in Waco, Irving and San Marcos.

City Council is set to adopt the program on June 14th.

Houston officials said between 80 and 100 city employees have already expressed interest.


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