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Fronteras: The Future Of Public Housing In San Antonio’s West Side

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Ed Hinojosa Jr. is interim president and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority. | Credit: San Antonio Housing Authority
San Antonio Housing Authority
Ed Hinojosa Jr. is interim president and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority.

The latest debate over public housing and displacement is taking place in San Antonio’s near West Side. The Alazán-Apache Courts are the oldest public housing units in the city and are a prominent feature in this mostly Mexican American neighborhood.

The initial demolition plans for the 1939 complex called for the relocation of several residents to other housing communities or to switch them to Section 8 vouchers. They would then have first rights to the new mixed-income community.

But officials with the San Antonio Housing Authority, SAHA, recently pivoted from their plan, canceling its partnership with the NRP Group to demolish the structure.

“We became concerned about relocating 250 people, or families, at one time,” said Ed Hinojosa Jr., SAHA interim president and CEO. “We still plan to demolish and rebuild Alazán, but we're planning to do it in much smaller pieces.”

The agency now plans to turn to federal funding to move the project forward, but some residents of the West Side and of the Alazán Courts would rather the structures be renovated so that people can stay in their homes and keep their community support systems in place.

The need for public housing in San Antonio, and across the country, continues to outpace construction. Several barriers contribute to this slow progress, including the stigma of public housing associated with crime and poverty. Another reason is written into federal housing laws.

The Faircloth Amendment, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1999, essentially limits the construction of new public housing units. But Hinojosa is hopeful that conversations recently surfacing at the federal level will introduce revisions to current policies or introduce new pieces of legislation.

“The discussion has become louder about promoting public housing, adequately funding public housing, funding the backlog of what we call deferred maintenance... and then an additional investment through infrastructure investments,” said Hinojosa. “So I'm quite optimistic right now about the future because the conversation has changed.”

SAHA recently released a draft of its five-year strategic plan, which aims to address the nearly 45,000 housing applicants in San Antonio who are still waiting for assistance, and the 60,000 residents in need of updated housing and expanded social services.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren