City prioritizing policy that would prevent development from displacing residents

Complaints flowing into city about rising property taxes, gentrification

SAN ANTONIO – After spending decades in their homes, people across San Antonio are having to move.

New development in the city is causing a rise in property taxes and making it impossible for many people to stay in their neighborhoods.

A new city policy that would offer people relief was supposed to kick in next year, but the issue's urgency has the city rolling out the policy now.

Giamo Lorea has lived in his home west of downtown for more than 40 years.

"This has been in my family since 1935," Lorea said.

Over the last five to 10 years, however, a lot has changed.

"I've noticed it in my neighbors changing because people can't afford to live here anymore and they're getting taxed out," Lorea said. "It's sad because they established community."

People all over San Antonio, making the same complaints to the city:
- Property taxes and appraisal values shooting up
- Developers asking families to sell their homes
- Code enforcement not helping enough with preservation

The city is responding.

A displacement prevention policy scheduled for 2020 is being moved up to help people now.

"This helps us utilize the funding, assist about 200 families if they need it, and allows us to distribute the funds," said Neighborhood and Housing Services Director Veronica Soto.

Soto said City Council will vote Thursday on how to utilize the policy's $1 million fund.

The three areas of support currently listed in the policy are:
- relocation assistance for displaced people
- emergency assistance for those at risk of being displaced
- the creation of a rental incentive fund for the most vulnerable households

"The criticism we heard is that we're not doing enough on the prevention side, but there is consensus that families in this stressful situation should be assisted, so we're moving our timeline on the prevention items," Soto said.

Another big piece of the policy involves educating homeowners about tax breaks and programs that already exist.

The full policy breaks down who will be eligible for each type of assistance.

It's awareness and action Lorea has been waiting to see.

"I'm glad that we're growing and a lot of people want to live here, I just want to take care of the people who have been living here that made it such a vibrant city for the people who want to move over here," Lorea said.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman

Courtney Friedman joined KSAT 12 News in August 2014 as a general assignments reporter. She graduated as a proud Longhorn from the University of Texas, with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. In 2013, she was nominated for a Barbara Jordan Award for her stories about people with disabilities in the workplace.