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A new report shows San Antonio’s most vulnerable residents are disproportionately displaced by code enforcement measures

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San Antonio's G.J. Sutton Building is undergoing demolition.
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio

Code enforcement violations are used to remove San Antonio residents from their homes at higher rates than other major Texas cities combined, according to a recent report from the University of Texas Austin School of Law.

The report shows that between 2015 and 2020 approximately 1,000 vacate orders and orders to demolish were issued for single-family homes, 626 of which were occupied, and that the city’s code enforcement measures disproportionately displaced individuals living in downtown-adjacent areas with older housing stock, high poverty and communities of color.

UT Law’s data shows San Antonio’s issuance rate was exponentially higher than those of Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth combined for the same period.

Michael Shannon, director of the City of San Antonio’s Development Services department, says he disagrees with the report’s conclusions and that “notices to vacate are used only when a structure is determined to be unfit for human occupancy and constitutes a threat to the health, safety and welfare of its residents as required in the San Antonio Property Maintenance Code.”

A hearing is typically used to determine whether a structure should be deemed unsafe for residents or the community, but the report found that just 17% of vacate orders were given hearings and 86 demolition orders did not receive a hearing.

Why did San Antonio have a higher rate of orders to vacate and demolish homes than other Texas cities? Why were orders disproportionately issued in lower-income communities of color?

Why was the hearing process often bypassed? Under what circumstances were orders to vacate issued without a hearing?

What makes a home “unfit for human occupancy”? Are certain standards used or are determinations made on a case-by-case basis?

What kind of future do individuals face after displacement? Are resources provided after residents are forced to vacate?

What recommendations does the report make for how to improve the process in San Antonio?

Guest: Heather Way, co-director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at The University of Texas School of Law and lead author of the “Ousted” report

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Tuesday,  November 23.

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