A familiar cycle
Soapworks and Towne Center occupy three corners of the West Martin and South Santa Rosa intersection and offer some of the last affordable housing units left in a fast-gentrifying downtown.
The way some residents see it: because city and county policies are the driving force behind all of downtown’s recent and potential growth, shouldn’t it be the city and county’s responsibility to offset potential damage to long-term and vulnerable residents?
As San Antonio’s center continues to grow with the help of public money, this dilemma plays on repeat. Specifically, major transformations of segments of the San Antonio River — the Museum Reach to the north, the Mission Reach to the south — have had an impact on communities built along the waterway.
During the late 2000s, when the Museum Reach was completed, a handful of residents and organizations along that portion of the San Antonio River were displaced as development moved in and property values rose. In 2014, 300 residents were uprooted from the Mission Trails mobile home park along the Mission Reach to the south to make room for a luxury complex.
“Not having housing security is literally debilitating on the brain and on the body.” — Maureen Galinda, Soapworks resident
Recently, to help curb this trend while simultaneously addressing downtown’s lack of affordability, Nirenberg placed a moratorium on a downtown incentives program known as the Center City Housing Incentives Policy. Also, Nirenberg’s housing task force is currently meeting to solve dilemmas like Soapworks and Towne Center.
“We created the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force to address issues just like this one,” Nirenberg said in a statement to Folo Media. “Understanding that the challenges of growth and development are complex, we expect the Task Force to deliver a set of compassionate policy recommendations that would help us ensure that affordable housing stock exists throughout our city and that our residents can age in place.”
A 2013 economic impact report predicted that in its first 10 years, the San Pedro Creek project would bring in 7,300 new residents to the area, increase property values by 150 percent and draw in $227 million in ad valorem tax revenue.
Though Dawson and other residents like where they are living, most just want to move — if they can afford to.
A handful of tenants have approached District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño to request financial help with a move.
Treviño met with the San Antonio Housing Authority and the Department of Human Services on Friday, Jan. 13, to discuss the situation. Treviño said he will find a way to get moving assistance for any resident that is priced out.
“My goal is to help them however they want me to,” Treviño said. “I want to help them if they want to stay or if they want to leave … that is their choice.”
Treviño said he is still analyzing how he can help residents stay if their rent increases dramatically, but so far no one who has approached him has wanted to stay.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said county officials have not discussed the situation at Soapworks and Towne Center, nor has he heard complaints from its residents. However, he said the county will not allow a scenario like Mission Trails to happen again.
“It is one thing when residents are being displaced, but that is not what is happening here,” Wolff said.