SA renters hurt as housing costs outpace wage growth

SAN ANTONIO — Renters in every city council district in San Antonio earn less than homeowners, and nearly half of them spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to a report by a nonprofit focused on housing equity.

A report released in late September by Texas Housers showed that 52 percent of tenants in East Side 2 are considered cost-overburdened, meaning more than 30 percent of their income is spent on housing. Meanwhile, more than 28 per cent of tenants in West End 5 spend more than half of their income on rent, the highest concentration of tenants considered cost-burdened.

“If you’re spending too much on housing costs, that could mean you’re sacrificing childcare. It could mean you don’t have the money to put food on the table…or medical issues that are delayed because you have to pay rent first, ” said Mia Loseff, South Texas regional director for Texas Housers. Housing research, advocacy and tenant organization with offices in San Antonio, Houston and Austin.

In its report, the nonprofit used the latest five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and data from the state of San Antonio and Opportunity Homes (formerly known as the San Antonio Housing Authority.

These profiles, broken down by council area, include data on housing unit type and age, average rent, median household income for renters and homeowners, and the percentage of available units for renters earning the minimum wage.

In compiling the data, which reflects long-term patterns and trends, the nonprofit said it “aims to provide a snapshot of renters’ living conditions and potential challenges they may face.”

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Those challenges include being able to find housing in many parts of San Antonio, and housing costs outpacing wage growth. Residents spend most of their paychecks on rent and other bills, with little left over to put down a down payment on a home. Rents and house prices are on the rise.

Subsidized apartments are unevenly distributed across the city. 60% of public housing units are located in Districts 1 and 5 combined, including the West Side and neighborhoods from Downtown North to 410 Loop.

“If you’re in the lowest income bracket, you don’t have the ability to rent in all parts of the city, and most of the city is virtually inaccessible,” Loseff said.

According to Texas Housers, the widest gap in median household income between renters and homeowners is in the North Side’s 9th Ward — $46,050 a year for renters and $107,020 for homeowners.

The average monthly rent paid by tenants was lowest in the 5th Ward at $782 and highest in the 9th Ward at $1,185.

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Lossoff said 6 percent of rental housing in District 5 was built in the past 10 years. It has the largest public housing stock with 1,936 units, including the 501-unit Alazán Courts, the oldest and largest complex in the city.

Through a partnership between Opportunity Home and NRP Group, Alazán Courts will be demolished and replaced with mixed-income apartments.

But pressure from residents concerned about displacement and housing advocates prompted Opportunity Home to retreat last year. The agency is working with Able City to develop a master plan for the complex.

There are no public housing units in the 9th district and 14 in the 4th district in southwest San Antonio.

District 2 had the highest number of units at 1,629 for families with Section 8 vouchers. District 9 had the smallest number at 114.

Lossoff said the number of vouchers has been declining, as has the city’s stock of public housing and the number of landlords accepting vouchers.

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There are multiple factors behind the distribution of different types of units – red lines, white flights, urban renewal and development patterns, etc., she said.

“Each area has its specific circumstances or circumstances. But if you want to get into that fairer city where low-income people can rent everywhere, it’s important to look at it holistically,” Loseff said.

Texas Housers also includes data from the past decade.

According to the nonprofit, the average monthly rent paid by tenants rose from $748 to $1,025 during this period, and the number of units available to tenants earning the minimum wage fell by 24%.

Texas Housers are sharing this material with City Council members, advocacy groups, community associations and other organizations.

“We wanted to provide these briefs and overviews as an educational tool,” Loseff said.

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