'Affordable Housing' Projects Across City Spark Public Backlash

City Council Thursday approved the first of what promises to be a series of 'affordable' housing projects in every neighborhood in the city, but the vote wasn't without pushback, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Several speakers complained about traffic, noise, and many said they didn't want 'the sorts of people' who live in affordable housing in their neighborhoods, a comment which outraged north side Councilman John Courage, whose Ninth District is in line for several affordable housing projects.

"To categorize them as 'those people' who are 'undeserving' or 'may not live up to the standards of other people in this community, I think is disgusting," Courage said.

Courage, who is a schoolteacher, said in many cases, teachers, as well as other professionals, are eligible for the housing.

Several city officials took pains to make sure residents know the difference between 'affordable housing,' which all of the newly approved projects are labeled, and 'public housing,' which does not include any of the new projects.

The 'affordable housing' carries rents to the tenants that average $950 a month, and will be open to families making as much as $50,000 a year.  It will also be open to retired people in fixed Social Security incomes. The affordable housing units are built with city subsidies, generally tax breaks, but the developments will pay property taxes.

'Public housing,' on the other hand, is housing that is operated by the San Antonio Housing Authority, and residents receive apartments with subsidized rents which are substantially lower.

Councilman Manny Pelaez said a large number of blue collar and white collar people, from city employees to attorneys, and retired people, may qualify for 'affordable housing' with the right family size, and he blasted the criticism of the effort.

"To relegate 'those people' to living far away, because of this really hateful and bigoted myth that 'those people' are all robbers, rapists, and meth addicts, does nothing," Pelaez said.

Mayor Nirenberg has made affordable housing a centerpiece of his administration, expressing concern that the skyrocketing price of houses and rental property is squeezing middle class residents and damaging the city's economy and quality of life.

More 'affordable housing' projects are on the drawing board in districts all over the city, officials told Council.

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