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Community Aims To Fight East Side Gentrification With Affordable Housing

Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
A group of stakeholders, including San Antonio's Housing Authority chairman Morris Stribling and Terramark CEO Charles Turner in the foreground, sign a beam to go in the first of 25 homes under the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

As San Antonio’s real estate boom continues, finding affordable housing can be a challenge, especially in neighborhoods on the east side where entire streets are becoming gentrified.

Old neighborhoods near popular downtown are seeing new residents moving in and remodeling older homes and driving up property values, according to the Bexar County Appraisal District.

Those higher property values mean higher property taxes which forces older residents, especially those on fixed income, out of homes they have lived in, sometimes for decades.

The appraisal district told Texas Public Radio News earlier this month that the east side, around Fort Sam Houston, saw home values soar by more than 20%.

The San Antonio Housing Authority is working to keep housing affordable around downtown. The group points to the groundbreaking on Thursday of 25 new homes near the intersection of Arthur and Lockhart streets on the east side as an example.

The housing authority partnered with home developer Terramark to build the homes under a program called the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

The program helps keep home prices down by approaching new developments with a team of lenders, builders and government agencies that look for ways to keep costs down.

The housing authority board chairman, Morris Stribling, said such developments stem the tide of gentrification.

“That’s one of the ways we can kind of offset some of the negative aspects of development, is to have these public-private partnerships and, of course, the central theme or reason we exist as a housing authority is to create and maintain affordable housing,” Stribling said.

He said he expects more of these developments in the future as San Antonio remains one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to do that,” Stribling said. “We’re always looking to form partnerships so we can create more affordable housing.”

Charles Turner, the founder and CEO of Terramark, admits his company could be making bigger profit margins on other developments, but this was a chance to do something good for the community.

“These homes, you know priced at where they are, we know the margins are small,” he said.  They really are compared to what we do in terms of market product, but that’s okay. We’ve been blessed to be able to do a lot of good in the market.”

He said Terramark has done several other similar developments around downtown during the last nine years.

He said a home builder willing to accept a lower profit margin is just part of the formula to pull off these projects.

“Through a lot of time and effort on a lot of people’s part, we were able to put together a plan to bring these affordable houses to this area and there will be houses starting as low as $130,000, going up to $160.000,” Turner said.

Completion is expected in 2020.

Terramark will build and sell the homes to qualified homebuyers with incomes that do not exceed 120% of the San Antonio area adjusted median income as set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Wells Fargo has contributed a $100,000 grant to SAHA to assist qualified buyers with closing costs.

To maintain affordability, for 20 years the owners of the homes may only resell them to buyers who also qualify at the 120% adjusted income level at the time of sale.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.