First open housing task force meeting set

Submitted by Ben Olivo on October 2, 2017 - 8:47pm

The first open meeting of Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s newly-assembled housing task force is set for 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the San Antonio Central Library, 600 Soledad St. In mid August, Nirenberg announced the five-member task force — built to address San Antonio’s most pressing housing needs, such as gentrification and the shortage of affordable housing units.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Nirenberg expects the group to identify goals — both short- and long-term — and craft a timeline.

“Obviously, I’m really excited about this finally taking place,” Nirenberg said. “What people can expect is that task force members are going to essentially articulate the mission of the housing effort and underscore the most significant challenges in housing that San Antonio can face.”

Nirenberg has said those challenges are clear: how to prevent or lessen the impact of development — especially those that receive incentives from the city — on existing and vulnerable neighborhoods in the urban core — i.e. gentrification; how to build more affordable housing units given the shortage of an estimated 42,000 units; how to curb the skyrocketing home prices in San Antonio.

Nirenberg also expects a date to be set for a larger housing summit, possibly to be held in October. “I’m sure there will be a discussion about a public summit for convening the public in mass to discuss housing in the future,” he said.

How Tuesday’s meeting will function remains to be seen. The task force is an independent body — not tied to the city’s governmental process like the Zoning or Planning commissions — that the mayor created and has autonomy to conduct its meetings any way it sees fit. The only other meeting took place Sept. 8; that meeting was more of a get-to-know-you and planning session for the group’s five members.

The task force meetings will be open to the public from now on, according to Nirenberg and the task force.

The task force is led by Lourdes Castro-Ramirez, former Deputy Assistant Secretary under former Secretary Julián Castro at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The other members are former Councilwoman Maria Berriozabal; Jim Bailey, associate principal at Alamo Architects; Gene Dawson, president of Pape-Dawson Engineers; and Noah Garcia, senior vice president at Vantage Bank Texas.

Nirenberg hopes the task force can craft the framework of a housing policy in six months. Then, some of the work would be forwarded to technical committees, made up of volunteers like the larger task force body, presumably, who would then fine-tune the recommendations.

“But I did tell them that I don’t want them to feel hastened to produce something if the time allowed is not enough to produce something of quality,” the mayor said.