New housing task force to take compassionate approach

Five members include longtime housing advocate

SAN ANTONIO – Mayor Ron Nirenberg has laid out his vision for housing in San Antonio and on Tuesday his new policy task force met for the first time.

As a longtime advocate for affordable housing, Maria Berriozabal said she waited 30 years for the city of San Antonio to make housing a top priority.  

“I’m very grateful to Mayor (Ron) Nirenberg for doing this, creating the housing policy task force,” said Berriozabal, one of its five members.

The other members include chair Lourdes Castro-Ramirez, Jim Baily, Gene Dawson Jr. and Noah Garcia.

“It’s critical to the future of our city that we do this well and we do it now,” Nirenberg said in a statement.

The task force's overall mission over the next six months is to develop a framework for “a comprehensive and compassionate housing policy,” leading to a list of recommendations, followed by possible action.

RELATED: Nirenberg outlines policy to address city's housing shortage

“To put value on compassion, and to put value on equity at this time of our city’s growth, is imperative,” Berriozabal said. “It’s the people who are important. We can’t just think of money and who is making money and then leave the people behind.”

In addition to homelessness, the task force will tackle such challenges as housing availability and affordability, and gentrification and the residents it displaces.

“I’m not against growth,” Berriozabal said.

But she said the question “What’s going to happen to the people who have been living there the longest?” needs to be asked

Pointing to the explosion of apartments and condominiums in and around downtown, Berriozabal said she doesn’t think the plan was ever to displace people.

“I think that’s a by-product of something that was not thought out,” Berriozabal said.

She said that’s one reason why the task force is setting up a system to get public input.

“The wisdom I think is not just five people. The wisdom is in the community,” she said.

Berriozabal said people from all sides of town, including new arrivals, are invited to share their thoughts and suggestions.

She said it will be difficult to deal with issues that have not been addressed before now.

“But I think we have a bold council. We have a bold mayor and I think we have a bold community that want something better for their children,” Berriozabal said. 

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