Interfaith San Antonio Alliance has offered faithful public support for the work of San Antonio’s Housing Policy Framework. In 2018 we were asked by Housing Policy Task Force Chair Lourdes Castro Ramirez to help “ensure accountability to the public.”
Recently, Veronica Soto, CoSA Director of Neighborhood and Housing Services, offered an update to keep us informed. Her helpful response follows which she graciously shared in the midst of her heavy workload. Let us celebrate the progress as well as be reminded to keep vigilant in this important work.
From Ms. Soto:
The City of San Antonio has made some great progress with implementation of the Housing Policy Framework and are working on several more key policies and initiatives; I hope it comes as no surprise that some of these items were placed on hold due to the pandemic and our department’s shift to emergency housing assistance this fiscal year.
Related to the 5 action/policy areas outlined in the Housing Policy Framework, I offer some quick updates:
1. Develop a Coordinated Housing System – we continue to work on this and the pandemic has forced us to coordinate more closely and even with more partners on multiple programs and policies. One way we are building a living coordinated system is through our Strategic Housing Implementation Plan (SHIP) process. This process looks at the Housing Policy Framework target goals (p 52) and recalibrates them since we found while tracking our projects that we are exceeding many of the 10 year goals in just 2 years! Through this process we are also looking cross-departmentally with Human Services, Historic Preservation, and Economic Development to make sure our new goals are coordinated with other initiatives and that we are addressing the needs of the community holistically. Once we have the new target goals defined we will look to adopt specific strategies and focus areas for the City and our housing partners like the San Antonio Housing Authority and San Antonio Housing Trust. We hope to have this finalized in the next few months.
2. Increase City Investment in Housing – this Fiscal Year, we had an increase in the city’s investment in housing with the budget and in the middle of the year with adjustments made as we expanded the Risk Mitigation Fund to create the Covid-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHAP) in response to the economic effects of the pandemic on housing insecurity
3. Increase affordable housing production, rehabilitation, and preservation-our pipeline of housing provided by the city and many partners, has over 6,000 affordable units included thus far this fiscal year. We are finalizing an online dashboard that will be available to the public that will show our pipeline of projects against our housing targets with details on unit type, number of units, and AMI level. We hope to have that available in the next few weeks.
4. Protect and promote neighborhoods–we continue this work though some of it was paused or rethought as face to face input meetings were cancelled for virtual options. EHAP is one program I count for us in this category. The ForEveryoneHome initiative, our anti-displacement initiative, is another one that slowed down, but continued to address these issues. ForEveryoneHome is a partnership with Grounded Solutions Network, Center for Community Progress, and the Ford Foundation that works with the community to create policies to keep our most vulnerable residents housed. In January we completed our needs assessment (attached) and last month, completed a community survey and series of interviews and focus groups. By October we plan to have a set of recommended anti-displacement strategies. The team from Grounded Solutions Network will help us implement those strategies.
5. Ensure accountability to the public-we’ve re-started Housing Commission meetings where we have public comment provided for feedback on all our housing programs, we continue to meet virtually with stakeholders on different affordable housing programs and policies (this year: EHAP, ForEveryoneHome, Risk Mitigation Stakeholders Group, Renter’s Commission consideration feedback, etc.) and have worked on items like public facing dashboards to share outputs. For example, the EHAP program has a dashboard that shares in real-time the number of applications received, those approved or denied, and those in progress in addition to an accounting of how much money has been spent on the program and for what particular categories
Now that Housing Commission has resumed its meetings (virtually), we are picking back up our annual work plan which includes the creation of an annual report; we paused this work as we shifted to respond to housing insecurity with EHAP and I had nearly all of our staff working on that program in the first weeks after we launched it.
Finally, regarding CoSA initiatives to energize religious congregations in property use to provide more affordable housing, our pilot Mission Oriented Development (MOD) program is still ongoing and we are currently working with several organizations in the community to provide them resources, information, and technical support for building affordable housing on their underutilized land. While this process can be time intensive we know that working with these organizations is a great way to find land and provide resources to help them achieve their missions. We hope to have several projects moving to the partnership/funding stage over the next year.
I hope this helps answer your questions but please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Director, Department of Neighborhood and Housing Services
City of San Antonio