San Antonio Express-News Commentary: A vow to disrupt San Antonio’s affordable housing system
Sept. 5, 2022
It is time to disrupt the existing affordable housing system.
One out of 15 San Antonians is on a waitlist for affordable housing. These numbers should be startling, yet this has become the reality for San Antonio.
The median income for families who live in income-based and federally subsidized housing is less than $10,000 per year. Double-digit increases in rent and the price of single-family homes are contributing to the crisis our families face.
The city of San Antonio’s Strategic Housing Implementation Plan estimates 95,000 low-income households need affordable housing. The plan calls for preserving and building 28,000 affordable units over the next 10 years.
For 85 years, the San Antonio Housing Authority, or SAHA, provided generations of families, the elderly and disabled individuals opportunities for temporary affordable housing.
Today, the housing crisis has grown dramatically as San Antonio remains the poorest major city in America and also one of the most economically segregated. But things do not have to remain this way. It is time to disrupt the affordable housing system.
There is reason for optimism. Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s leadership in housing policy, as well as the recent public approval of the housing bond, is promising. The San Antonio Housing Authority is moving in a new direction, committed to expanding affordable income-based housing.
We have explored our organizational purpose. We have changed our values, and we are articulating them publicly. We are evolving from a bureaucratic “authority” to a community-, mission- and people-centered organization. Leading change means challenging the existing affordable housing status quo and system with direct, equitable policies, programs and innovative solutions.
We have 1,700 fewer income-based housing units in the city compared with just over two decades ago, and yet the need has grown. The housing authority is committed to replacing these 1,700-income based rental units and more. Low-income housing tax credit development will not resolve our affordable housing shortage alone, so we are exploring new, innovative ways to create income-based affordable housing.
We are reviewing our organizational policies and procedures, and will change them to ensure we have equitable practices across the organization — from decision-making to resident service delivery, from removing implicit biases in our business practices to pursuing trauma-informed care certification.
Our families are optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead, and our organization is merely a stepping stone in their journeys. We will remove barriers and search for chances to create more opportunities. We need to become a city with more affordable housing options.
For these reasons, our organization is now known as Opportunity Home San Antonio. Through our organization, generations of San Antonians have found opportunities. Opportunity Home will only expand on these opportunities for residents today and for the generations to come. The disruption of the affordable housing system has just begun.
Ed Hinojosa Jr., is president and CEO of Opportunity Home San Antonio, formerly known as the San Antonio Housing Authority.