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Councilwoman, some tenants express shock at ouster of San Antonio's public housing chief

Opportunity Home
A property managed by Opportunity Home

The board of San Antonio's housing authority on Wednesday night voted to end the contract of President and CEO Ed Hinojosa Jr.

District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo, a longtime affordable housing advocate, expressed disappointment and shock over the move.

Castillo said Hinojosa restored the trust of public housing tenants in the authority.

She also praised Hinjosa's ability to land federal funds and city bonds to finance the expansion of affordable public housing in the city.

"Opportunity Home and public housing is that last permanently affordable housing stock that we have, and District 5 has the highest concentration of public housing units with roughly 1,937," Castillo said.

Castillo said she feared a "regression" by the authority towards building more mixed-income properties as a solution to more affordable living in the city, where some units at an apartment complex are reserved for residents who earn a lower percentage of what's called the Area Median Income (AMI).

"It's not lost on me that a majority of our public housing is on very desirable real estate along the greenways and that appetite under previous leadership I'm sure is still there," she said. "It's alarming and concerning, but we have a responsibility to ensure that we're keep folks housed."

Hinojosa's ouster came after more than 600 notices to vacate were sent out to public housing residents who were behind on rent payments. But some supporters said they believed he was only following the direction of the authority board to do so and was made a scapegoat.

Kayla Miranda, a public housing resident with the group Coalition for Tenant Justice, also praised Hinojosa as a "compassionate" leader of the authority who "put tenants first."

She said she believed it was Hinojosa's move toward more public housing units and less mixed housing units that may have cost him his job because of all of those who stand to financially benefit from the development of more profitable mixed income housing.

Miranda criticized mixed-income properties as not truly affordable. For example, she said residents on fixed Social Security incomes, even if they are required to earn only 30% of the ARI, still have a hard time making ends meet.

"Someone on Social Security at a 30% unit is paying $525 a month, whereas in a public housing unit, they're paying $139 a month," she said.

"So, when you're on that fixed income, you're only getting $800 a month, I mean that's a huge difference. That's the money for your Medicare co-pay, or for your groceries, or for your clothing, cleaning supplies, the things you need, the basics you need to survive." Miranda added.

On Thursday afternoon, acting president and CEO, Michael Reyes, said to protect residents, all pending and eligible notices to vacate issued last month to public housing households will be rescinded immediately.

He said all households under the $3,000 current repayment policy will be automatically eligible for a repayment agreement among other proposed policy changes.

The authority owns and manages more than 6,000 units at 74 public housing properties, housing more than 62,000 residents. It's mixed-income portfolio has 31 properties with more than 4,000 residents.

The authority has half-a-billion dollars in total property assets, an operating budget of $200 million, and 600 employees.

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