Council Warned of Dangers of 'Economic Segregation'

posted by 1200 WOAI -

San Antonio city leaders took a step this week towards using tax abatements to close an economic gap that's one of the largest in the nation, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

In a briefing to the  Economic and Workforce Development Committee, UTSA's Dr. Rogelio Saenz said there are about 412,000 people living in distressed zip codes, where salaries are low, unemployment is high and a majority of residents are living below the poverty line.

"That's one -fourth of the population," he said. "So this really has really big implications."

There’s' no denying San Antonio’s recent economic boom. Forbes magazine ranked the city number one when it comes to millennial growth and number ten on their list of fastest growing cities.  The Milken Institute put San Antonio number eight when it comes to job growth, and number ten when it comes to best overall economic performance.

But this comes at a time when various studies put Bexar County at the top of the list for economic segregation.  That's concentrations of prosperity and poverty which don’t overlap."You have the continuation of poverty," Saenz explains.

Across the various San Antonio zip codes, the unemployment rates ranges from zero up to 19-percent.  The percentage living below the poverty level goes from two up to 48-percent. The median household income ranges from $22,506 up to some zip codes where it is as high as $122,806.

The study, done by Economic Innovation Group, cites the 78207 zip code, which is just west of downtown, as the most distressed in the city.  Half of the population does not have a high school diploma and half is not working.  Between 2011 and 2015, there was a decrease in business activity there, where other parts of the city flourished.

City Staff has been directed to start forming a study to look at how other cities are handling economic segregation, and how tax abatements could close the gap without hurting the city's competitive advantages.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran says this is absolutely something the city needs to be involved in.

"We have a stable growing economy, but it needs to be for all of San Antonio."

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