SA could expand downtown housing tax incentives

Affordable housing a priority for COPS/Metro Alliance

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Expanding the Center City Housing Incentive Policy beyond downtown is up for a vote at Thursday's City Council meeting, despite calls by COPS/Metro Alliance to postpone it to allow for more public input. 

"We're not against development at all," said Linda Davila, of Metro Alliance. "We just want it to include some sort of affordable housing."

Davila also said COPS/Metro Alliance learned just last week about the proposed revision of what's also known as C-CHIP.

District 1 City Councilman Roberto Trevino, whose district includes the downtown area, said C-CHIP has already been put on hold for a year to make needed changes.

Based on recommendations by the Mayor's Housing Task Force, Trevino said the question was, "How can we still keep the C-CHIP program to incentivize market rate housing and also provide some contributions to affordable housing in San Antonio?"

Trevino said rebates for developers would be reduced from 100 percent to 75 percent, with the remaining 25 percent going toward existing affordable housing programs. 

Instead of relying on a single solution, Trevino said it will take "many different policies, many different strategies to really address affordability in our city."

Davila said COPS/Metro Alliance still has its own questions.

"There are no details, no clarity about who gets the money," Davila said. "What's it going to be spent on, and how is it going to be controlled?"

"We'd be happy to walk them through the program," Trevino said. 

Trevino and Davila gave the Alamo Community Group a thumbs-up for its plans to build Museum Reach Lofts at the corner of North St. Mary's Street and Jones Avenue. 

Although the renderings look as trendy as other apartment and condominium projects downtown, the developer is a nonprofit focused on affordable housing. 

Jennifer Gonzalez, executive director of the Alamo Community Group, said the rents are based on 30 to 60 percent of the area's medium income of $68,500, with efficiencies starting at $333 and $858 for two-bedroom apartments.

Gonzalez said the majority of the rentals would be for workers earning $9 to $15 hourly.

She said for those earning above the median income, some rents would be "around $1,000, but still less than the market rate."

Gonzalez said she understands the concerns of groups like COPS/Metro Alliance. 

She said given the high property values, it's difficult for developers to build affordable housing. 

"There just isn't any new affordable housing coming in at a fast enough rate," Gonzalez said.

She said that's where tax incentives like C-CHIP could make the difference. 

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