Affordability concerns stall Friedrich Lofts complex housing development

“Friedrich Lofts” would have 358 units, but only 14 set aside for people earning 60% AMI

Future of near East Side housing development up in the air

SAN ANTONIO – A project to redevelop part of an East Side “eyesore” is on hold over concerns about affordability.

The council members on the San Antonio Housing Authority Public Facility Corporation (PFC) Board delayed a vote on financing during a Tuesday meeting that would have allowed the Friedrich Lofts project to move forward. The project would create 358 units of studio, single-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments in a non-historic portion of the Friedrich Complex on East Commerce and Olive Street.

Had the issue not been delayed, District 9 Councilman John Courage told KSAT he would have voted against the project, which he thinks does not contain enough truly affordable housing units.

Of the 358 units, 179 would be reserved and priced for people earning less than the Area Median Income (AMI) defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, most reserved units would be for people earning 80% AMI -- $41,550 for one person or $59,300 for a family of four.

Only 14 units would be priced for people earning 60% AMI, costing between $767 and $987 in monthly rent, depending on the size of the apartment.

Of the 358 units in the proposed Friedrich Lofts housing development, 14 would be priced for people earning 60% AMI and 165 would be priced for people earning 80% AMI. The other half of the units would be priced at market rate. (San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corporation)

“But I think that even at 80% and 60% -- 80% of the people who live in the area won’t be able to afford to live there,” Courage said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Speaking to KSAT on Thursday, he said, “When I looked at this project a while back, you know, it looked like it was heading in a good direction. But the more that I thought about what the community was getting in return, the more I felt there wasn’t more pressure we could put on the developers to give us a better product for that community.”

However, District 2′s outgoing Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan says she believes the project is affordable, given all the other development happening in the district.

“Echo East is coming right up the road from that. If you think about the 707 that’s coming just a couple of more miles up the road from that, we’re speaking about affordability across the board,” Andrews-Sullivan said.

While Andrews-Sullivan does not sit on the PFC board, District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales does and was the only member to vote against delaying the financing vote.

Gonzales remarked during Tuesday’s meeting that her West Side district has a housing availability problem for people who do well for themselves. Without options for new housing, they have to leave the neighborhood, she said. She also got visibly upset with Courage later on in the meeting when he supported a mixed-income project in his district.

“I can’t come up with anything else. That’s it, just flat out racism, that you can have some things and we can’t. And I’ll leave it at that,” Gonzales said.

Courage called the remark “across the line” and told KSAT on Thursday that his differing support was not hypocritical. The North Side councilman said there were differences between the projects, listing examples of financing, potential sales, the number of affordable units in each and the number of people already in the area who would be able to live at the new development.

The issue isn’t likely to come up until August at the earliest since three of the five council members will be leaving the PFC board. Between council turnover, a reorganization of all the Housing Trust boards, and the upcoming city council July break, it will take some time to get a new board evenly seated.

Friedrich Lofts (Friedrich Lofts)


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About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.