SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio tops the list as one of the fastest growing cities in the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau from 2016-2017, an average of 66 people were moving to the city per day. Different local and state agencies are working to accommodate that growth, including the Texas Department of Transportation.
A number of projects are underway that will help traffic congestion and create safer roadways. TxDOT spokesperson for the San Antonio area, Hernan Rozemberg, said the agency is planning years in advance. He shared how the Texas transportation commission just approved a large chunk of funding for projects.
“We understand that just by adding more lanes isn’t going to be the cure-all. But that’s something we can do on our end. The Texas Transportation Commission just approved $75 billion dollars over the next 10 years to ease congestion. As part of that, there’s also Texas Clear Lanes initiative. That’s looking specifically congestion in the 5 major metro areas including San Antonio,” said Rozemberg.
Currently, one of the major projects is on 281 north from 1604 to Borgfeld. It’s in phase one but once it’s completed, drivers will see a completed freeway. A major project for 2021 will impact 1604. Rozemberg said the goal is to tie the entire 1604 corridor.
“From Bandera out here on the northwest side to 35 on the northeast side. There’s funding available for a portion of that. That’s going to be expanding from 4 lanes you see now, 2 on each side to 10 total. That’s going to be going from Bandera highway 16 to Redland road,” he said.
KENS 5 spoke with Missy Stagers, owner of Missy Stagers Realty Partners who has more than 20 years of experience in real estate. We wanted to find out where new residents are finding homes. According to home sales in Bexar County up to December 2018, she said buyers are purchasing homes across the San Antonio area.
“It’s amazing that all of the sales aren’t north anymore. Inner city is growing, south of town is growing, west is very popular and east is very popular,” said Stagers. “If they want new homes though, they’re having to go out to Medina County, Kendall County, or Comal county just because of the growth of San Antonio."
New residents, Anthony and Danielle Bower, moved to San Antonio from Kansas. They found a home on the far west side. They looked at schools first and then, found a home in that area.
"It’s much like the Midwest. Everybody here is friendly," said Anthony. "We looked at the schools, great school ratings."
"When you come down to it, you want to afford what you’re buying and if you can’t, you don’t want to house poor. We were very conservative when we were purchasing a home," said Danielle.
Stagers said it’s difficult to find a home under 200 thousand dollars. She said that price will get a buyer about 11 hundred square feet. She said currently, the east side is the most affordable.
“There’s not much in the middle you can find unless you go downtown, and buy an 85-year-old home. You’ve got to go west or east,” she said.
KENS 5 spoke with east side resident Denise Gutierrez who has witnessed the growth for decades. Her concern is how it’s affecting current residents. Gutierrez who lives on Mason street saw her land value increase by 332 percent and her property value increase by 63 percent since 2015. She said she paid $10,696.14 in taxes last year.
“Some people are actually having to pay more in taxes than they are for mortgage,” said Gutierrez. “Unfortunately we have a lot neighbors in our area that are dealing with too much increase in taxes. We’re fortunate but at the same time, my neighbors are not. We have over 30 people in our neighborhood who are displaced and are in the process of moving out right now.”
San Antonio Neighborhood and Housing Services is addressing housing issues in the city in various ways. The agency is responsible for housing policy and production. Veronica Soto, the director of the department, said this year, the city has made big investments in housing.
“A lot of that investment, $17 million of new general fund money went to our existing programs that have showed success in the past to preserve affordable housing that currently exists to ensure we have more home-buyers so that we increase home ownership,” said Soto.
The department has also been implementing recommendations laid out by the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force. The goal is to increase investment, housing production, and preservation. One of the ways San Antonio Neighborhood and Housing Services is addressing displacement is by getting input from the community on how to use funding.
“We’re starting by what we call a risk mitigation policy where the city did create a 1 million dollar fund and we went to the community starting back in August. And said: we have this fund, what’s the best way to use it? We really listened,” said Soto. “We’re probably going to have another large community meeting to say this is how we would like to utilize the fund, here’s our policy. So, it will impact displacement, relocation, and what are the standards we want to have.”
Soto said she believes the work the city is doing now will pivot San Antonio away from a housing crisis.
“I think we’re equipped to handle that growth. Are there are going to be growing pains? Yes. But I think we’re equipped to handle the growth. San Antonio is a great city to live in and it still remains an affordable city compared to other places in the city,” she said.