SAWS 'Impact Fees' Studied in Context of Rising Housing Costs

As the city of San Antonio wrestles with higher housing costs, so-called 'impact fees,' the fees that are charged to developers to hook up to the water, sewer, and CPS Energy system are getting a second look, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

SAWS President Robert Puente says 'impact fees' vary depending on the location of the city, with the highest fees on the northwest side, because that is where connecting into the SAWS system has the largest 'impact.

He says the average impact fee is more than $8,000 per home.  But Puente says impact fees are fair because they don't force existing customer to pay for development.  He says impact fees also help keep the costs of your monthly water bill down.  He says the average San Antonio Water System water and sewer bill today is $65.44 a month, the second largest among Texas major cities, and nearly half as much as monthly water bills in Austin.

Puente also says impact fees are a one time charge, and don't have to be paid again even if the existing house is demolished and a new house is built on the lot.But Councilman Greg Brockhouse says the impact fee is obviously passed along to the home buyer, and can raise the buyer's monthly mortgage cost by $30 to $50, so it is an indirect increase in their water bill.

"And by the way, that $30 to $50 is often the difference between somebody qualifying for a mortgage, and not qualifying for a mortgage."

Mayor Nirenberg says impact fees deserve to be discussed in the greater conversation about rising housing costs, but he says they play an important role.

"We want to make sure that growth is sustainable, and that growth is, as closely as possible, paying for itself," he said.

Nirenberg and some council members said impact fees can also be used as a tool to encourage development in some areas of the city, and discourage it in others.

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