Program helping low-income families rehabilitate homes not up to city code

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Rob Garza - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Low-income families who can't afford to get their homes up to code have the chance to apply for help from the city of San Antonio.

The city's Owner Occupied Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program is now accepting applications from homeowners to help fix their homes. While the program isn't new, it has drastically grown over the past year.

Eighteen families were helped last year. This year, thanks to $6.5 million in federal and city funds, the program helped 80 families.

The city received the same amount of funding this year, so it can help 81 low-income families rehab their homes in 2020. 

Pablo and Esperanza Herrera have lived in their house on the Southeast Side for 22 years. Their home hasn't always had the fresh coat of new paint and new floors.

The Herreras' home was built in 1952. The plumbing was corroded. The electrical wiring was not up to date. There was no insulation and no central heating or air conditioning.

“We didn't get to enjoy the whole house because, for some reason, we never had central air,” Esperanza Herrera said.

Pablo Herrera is in his late 60s and is disabled. He said there is no way they could afford the $70,000 of renovations to his home to keep it up to city code until the city stepped in.

“Never dreamed that something like this was possible,” Pablo Herrera said.

Thanks to the program, the Herreras have a new kitchen, bathroom, roof, electrical wiring, plumbing, insulation and central heating and air conditioning.

The city can invest up to $90,000 per home. There are several qualifications that applicants must meet. Below is the full list of the requirements:

  • The home must be a single-family home (no rentals or duplexes).

  • The home must be inside city limits, districts 1-10.

  • The homeowner must live in the home for at least six months before applying.

  • The home cannot be for sale.

  • The property must be owned and occupied by all owners.

  • The homeowner must have a clear title to the property.

  • Except for current mortgages, no liens or judgments will be accepted.

  • The mortgage cannot be included in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and no reverse mortgages will be accepted.

  • Property taxes must be current. No payment plans or deferrals are accepted.

  • The home must be designated a homestead with the Bexar County Appraisal District.

  • The utility bills must be in the homeowner’s name.

  • The homeowner must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

  • The home’s after-rehabilitation appraised value cannot exceed $177,000.

  • The household’s gross income must be at or below 80% of the area median income.

The 80% limit per household size is as follows:

Household size annual income

  • One person: $39,800

  • Two people: $45,450

  • Three people: $51,150

  • Four people: $56,800

  • Five people: $61,350

  • Six people: $65,900

  • Seven people: $70,450

  • Eight people: $75,000

The funding for the program more than doubled after a 2017 Housing Policy Task Force found that many city residents couldn't afford to keep their homes up to code.

The goals of the program are to avoid having families abandon their homes and to improve low-income neighborhoods.

“We hope it improves the quality of life for that family but also the quality of life of the neighbors, as well,” said Veronica Soto, director of Neighborhood and Housing Services.

The city is accepting applications until Sept. 24.  Those interested in applying can click here for more information.

Eighty-one families will be chosen through a lottery system Oct. 1. Construction for the selected homes will take place next year.

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