Sparks Are Again Flying Over 'Subsidized Housing'

Vacancy Rate For U.S. Apartments Reaches Highest Rate In 20 Years

As the price of housing continues to rise in San Antonio, the battle is starting again over the construction of taxpayer subsidized, low-income housing in middle class neighborhoods, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

City Council has approved the issuance of $35 million in tax exempt multi family housing revenue bonds to construct a 300 unit 'affordable housing' apartment complex near Bandera and Mainland on the northwest side.

The vote by City Council was unanimous, but not before hours of debate over whether tax money should go to help people live in the same sort of housing that others pay for themselves, and whether this sort of housing is appropriate in that particular area.

Neighors like Seth Ruiz said the project hasn't been well thought out, especially the size of the apartment complex.

"That's a lot of people for the traffic, that's a lot of people for the schools," Ruiz told City Council.  "There are no sidewalks, there are no places to work in this area."

Lucy Dawson presented stacks of signitures to City Council opposing the project."In one month we have collected 3100 signitures," she said.  "Only 11,000 people voted in District 7 in the May election.  That shows you how many people in just one month have signed this.  We are not in support of what the City Council is choosing to do."

City officials said the 'Trails at Leon Creek' apartments will have rent pegged to what a family of four making $38,000 a year can afford.

Several neighbors said rather than use tax money to subsidize rents, the City should do more to help bring down the costs of housing, pointing out that what is driving up housing costs in many cases is the direct result of City Council action, from expensive new 'impact fees' and the costs of the 'tree ordinance' on developers, to skyrocketing city property taxes.

Teresa Barajas told Council that something has to be done to help low income working families afford housing that doesn't 'warehouse them' on the west side.

"Rent and housing costs have skyrocketed over the last few years," she said.  "Anyone in this city could wake up tomorrow and find themselves in need of affordable housing in this city."

The debate over what has been called 'scattered site' subsidized housing, or locating subsidized housing away from traditional 'housing projects' is an old one in the city.  Frequently neighbors who have paid full price for thier homes or apartments are disturbed by the fact that their tax money is used to pay for other families to rent or buy, in many cases, nicer homes than they can afford.

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