500 San Antonio Households on Rental, Utility Assistance Waiting List

click to enlarge 500 San Antonio Households on Rental, Utility Assistance Waiting List
Folo Media file photo
About 500 households who face displacement are on a waiting list to receive assistance from the city of San Antonio.

Already, 112 households—or, 288 people—have tapped into a $1 million anti-displacement fund the City Council approved on March 21 for families on the verge of being displaced, or who are in the process of being displaced.

The vast majority of those households, 103, were renters who received an average of $2,300 to help pay rising rents and $500 for utility payments, according to the city’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department (NHSD). Under the program, the maximum amount renters can receive is $3,500 for rent payments and $1,500 for utilities.

Two households received help paying their mortgage, but those figures were not made available after the Heron requested them. Under the program, which is known as the risk mitigation fund, homeowners can receive up to $3,500 for mortgage help, and up to $1,500 for utilities.

Seven households were given about $2,500 each to help cover the cost of moving expenses from one rental property to another—five from District 1, one from District 4 and one from District 10. Households can receive up to $3,000 for moving costs, and up to $7,000 if the family is moving from one mobile home park to another.

Not all who are on the waiting list may receive financial assistance from the $1 million displacement fund.

The reasons why residents apply for assistance varies, said Ian Benavidez, NHSD’s affordable housing administrator.

Some apply to help pay for repairs for their car or house, for example. If the applicant doesn’t qualify for the $1 million fund—which, Benavidez said, gives preference to applicants who have experienced a rental increase—the city may offer aid through other housing pots at its disposal.

Such pots include the federally-funded short-term emergency rental assistance program, which uses $200,000 from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG); the city’s Under 1 Roof program, $4.25 million from the city’s general fund to repair roofs for low-income residents; and the owner occupied rehab program, $7.43 million program from the city’s general fund for assisting low- to moderate-income residents with housing repairs.

The risk mitigation fund uses money from the city’s general fund.

NHSD Director Veronica Soto said two full-time staffers are processing the applicants, which she said explains the long waitlist.

Residents seeking assistance have increased in recent weeks since NHSD started hosting resource fairs at the Christopher Columbus Italian Society, which is adjacent to the Soap Factory apartment complex. NHSD held three “resource fairs” in May.

That initiative was spurred by Housing Commissioner Jessica Guerrero, who told NHSD officials that initial outreach to families who need assistance should be concentrated to Soap Factory residents. After construction began on the San Pedro Creek Culture Park in 2016, Soap Factory’s owners, Houston-based Barvin Group, began renovating the complex. Rents increased and residents on fixed incomes began to leave, the San Antonio Express News reported.

The San Antonio Heron is a nonprofit news organization dedicated to informing its readers about the changes to downtown and the surrounding communities.
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