San Antonio – As San Antonio voters decide whether to approve the city’s biggest-ever bond program, they’re also considering a new way to fund affordable housing.
The $150 million housing bond - Proposition F on San Antonio voters’ May 7 ballots - is the first of its kind for the city, made possible by a charter change approved by voters in 2021. Unlike the rest of the $1.2 billion bond program, the housing bond doesn’t specify the individual projects it will fund.
Instead, the money will be allocated to different affordable housing initiatives, according to a framework developed by a citizen committee, and approved by city council. The individual programs the bond money would fund would still need council approval.
Most of the funds would be spent on a mixture of preserving, acquiring, or producing affordable housing options. However, the framework also includes $25 million for housing with support services, meant to help people experiencing homelessness.
“(The supportive housing money) is targeting people fleeing domestic violence, aging out of foster care and helping to move people off of the street and out of the shelters,” said Katie Vela, the co-chair of the Housing Bond Committee, which developed the framework.
Vela, who is also the executive director for the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, thinks the city needs more housing overall.
“Our housing market all around is just tight. It’s hard to find a rental unit or buy a home right now that’s affordable. And so I think overall, this will really help everyone. And we need units available to help move people off of the street, even if they have support from our partners,” she said.
The framework specifies that many of the programs prioritize housing for lower-income households making less than 50% or 30% of the area median income (AMI).
The NRP Group, which typically handles apartment developments, is also supportive of the housing bond, said Senior VP of Development Jason Arechiga. The bond money, he said, could make it possible for new developments include more rent-capped units reserved for the lowest-income tenants.
“The bonds certainly come in, especially when you want to target more than just like 5 -10%,” he said, referring to the proportion of 30% AMI units in a project. “If you’re really trying to hit a greater proportion of those households, then you do need that extra bond to offset what those construction costs and operating costs would be.”
Not everyone is convinced about the housing bond. District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry told reporters Tuesday that he’s an “infrastructure guy.”
“Our infrastructure, to the tune of $6.6 billion is where we need to be focusing on. And I just got concerns about getting into the housing business with our tax dollars from everybody’s pockets here locally going into building housing or subsidizing housing,” Perry said.
The housing bond’s programs line up with goals in the city’s newly-approved Strategic Housing Implementation Plan (SHIP), which listed $300 million in bond funding between the 2022 and 2027 bond programs as part of the funding summary.
Perry was absent for the council’s vote to put the bond measures onto the May 7 ballot, but he voted in favor of adopting the SHIP. However, he said at the time that he wanted to ensure the city maximized using other pots of money, not city dollars.
Early voting lasts through Tuesday, May 3 before Election Day on Saturday, May 7.