Vacant lots in east and west San Antonio sold to help low-income neighborhoods

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Lee Carpio - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - More vacant lots on the city's east and west sides may soon be developed.

About a dozen city-owned lots are up for sale in low-income areas, with the goal of revitalizing neighborhoods.

When not kept up, vacant lots can become eyesores. They can also attract trouble, which is why East Side resident Martisha Mitchell is happy to see the empty overgrown lots near her home by the AT&T Center sold.

Mitchell said the lots have been known for illegal activity.

“If there is nothing getting done with them, (criminals) are going to use them as their own,” Mitchell said. “Like, gang members selling weed, you know, and all that, dealing dope.”

In 2014, the city bought more than 100 vacant lots on the city's east and west sides, using money from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“By selling these lots to developers, we're able to create new, affordable housing,” said Veronica Soto, director of Neighborhood and Housing Services.

So far, 107 lots have been sold and have had affordable housing units built on them or will be used for affordable housing in the future. There are about a dozen lots left for sale, but most of them won't be used to build affordable housing.

Soto said some of the lots are not suitable to build affordable housing because they're either on a floodplain or because of environmental issues. She said the city is now selling them to interested businesses or developers.

In June, City Council approved the sale of three vacant lots near I-35 and North Walters by the AT&T Center.

The buyer is United Controls LLC, a local audiovisual consulting business.

Soto said it's a win-win situation. The neighborhoods with the vacant lots get improved and the money goes back into city funds. which improve low-income neighborhoods.

“For the most part, neighbors do appreciate that, especially if a lot became an eyesore,” Soto said. “Then, it's something that is very welcomed.”

The Community Development Block Grant, a federal fund that benefits from the sales of the vacant lots, helps low-income communities.

City officials said the money can be used not just to build low-income housing but also to revitalize neighborhoods by improving sidewalks, streets, recreational centers and parks.

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