City transfers vacant land to develop affordable housing

SAN ANTONIO — Eight vacant lots on the east, west and south sides of San Antonio may be on track to house low-income residents.

City-owned properties will be transferred to San Antonio Affordable Housing Inc., the nonprofit arm of The San Antonio Urban Renewal Agency, now known as OUR SA. The city council unanimously approved the transfer last week on its no-discussions consent program.

The prizes are at:

  • 1928 W. Poplar St. in District 1
  • 1506 Lombrano Street in District 1
  • 415 Runnels Ave in District 2
  • 419 Runnels Ave in District 2
  • 2334 McKinley Ave, in District 3
  • 400 Elgin Avenue in District 3
  • Fire Station #2 at 601 Gillette Blvd. in the 3rd arrondissement
  • 406 Azucena Street in District 5

The nonprofit organization often acquires vacant land to convert and sell to developers to build affordable, energy-efficient new homes through a city initiative called REnewSA.

Their proposal this time includes seven single-family homes for families whose income is at or below 120% of the region’s median income, or about $100,000 for a family of four.

The eighth lot could become a multi-family rental development aimed at families earning 60% or less of the income median income in the region, or $34,860 for one person or $49,740 for a family of four. It was not immediately clear which lot was for rental.

The city has owned many properties for decades and usually acquires them through tax foreclosure – with the exception of one South Side location, which is a former fire station. She acquired the East Side lots on Runnels Avenue as early as 1966 and 1967.

The assessed value of the eight properties is $349,210, according to the Bexar County Assessment District. Proceeds from the sale of the lots will go to the city’s affordable housing fund.

These properties generate no tax revenue for the budget and often lead to complaints about crime and health issues.

Officials have already made such transfers of vacant land. San Joaquin’s empty lots on the West Side eventually became three single-family homes, according to city officials.

San Antonio Affordable Housing Inc. was established in 1995. Just two years earlier, the city had given its urban renewal agency a new focus on affordable housing efforts inside the 410 Loop. Members of the Nonprofit housing board of directors are either the same as those serving the urban renewal agency OUR SA or appointed by those board members.

Some city council members also hope to aim more broadly to clean up vacant properties in San Antonio.

The city maintains a abandoned building register and charges fees to landlords in the hope that this will incentivize some of them to return the buildings to service. The vacant building program only covers certain areas of the city.

But District 4 Councilman Adriana Rocha Garcia and District 9 Councilman John Courage asked city officials this summer to extend the program. They want to include vacant land, not just buildings, and properties all over the city. Rocha Garcia represents the southwest side and Courage the north side.

Their proposal received initial approval this month to move forward and will soon be discussed in detail by a committee of city council.

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