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Field trip reveals ’affordable housing’

Field trip reveals ’affordable housing’
GREGORY RIPPS La Vernia Councilman Harold Schott speaks with Jessica Lamar, manager of the Babcock North II Apartments in San Antonio, during a Nov. 25 visit to the apartment complex.

Video to come

Field trips aren’t just for fifth-graders.

A delegation representing La Vernia including the mayor and the city council trekked to San Antonio Nov. 25 in their efforts to research affordable housing opportunities.

Their destinations? Two apartment projects where residents pay rent on a sliding scale, depending on their income.

Mayor Robert Gregory said the council scheduled the trip because “groups have continually approached us” about developing “affordable” multi-family housing communities in La Vernia through a federal tax credit program.

“They answered enough of our questions for me to say we need to do our own due diligence [in researching the program],” Gregory said. “We don’t have a lot of available housing.”

Gregory explained that there are potential economic benefits of having such projects. He pointed out that larger businesses looking for communities in which to locate want to ensure their employees can find adequate and affordable places to live.

“The Bulverde-Spring Branch Economic Development Foundation scored high [in attractiveness to new business] by having a large number of apartments,” he said. “La Vernia has little in houses or apartments available for rent.”

City Secretary Angela Cantu and Jennifer Kolbe, executive director of the La Vernia Municipal Development District, joined city council members Eloi Cormier, Marie Gerlich, Jennifer Mocygema, Harold Schott, and the mayor to visit two affordable living projects: Babcock North II Apartments, in northwest San Antonio, and The Meadows at Bentley Drive, in northeast San Antonio. Alpha Barnes Real Estate Services manages both housing communities.

The La Vernia delegation looked at the apartments and common areas and asked questions of the respective on-site managers about resident qualifications, restrictions, and amenities.

The delegation returned home with generally positive impressions of the apartment complexes. They were not entirely sold on the idea for their city, however.

“They were nicer than anything I expected to see,” Kolbe said. “A lot depends on the management.”

The city also will have to help determine a location for such a project.

“There are no places to build within the city limits,” Gerlich said.

La Vernia citizen Keith Johanson didn’t accompany the fact-finding road-trip, but he has long advocated more affordable housing for the city.

“There is a definite, immediate need for affordable housing in the La Vernia area,” he said. “But under current city ordinances, it is impossible for median income people to live here.”

Johanson, owner of La Vernia Pump & Supply, said that lower-income families can’t afford local housing because the city requires new residences to be at least 85 percent masonry brick, rock, or stucco. He said the city might have to give the developer of affordable housing a break in property taxes.

“If something is not done, it’s going to be impossible for La Vernia to grow,” Johanson said.

A few facts

In the developments visited:

¢The amount of rent residents pay depends on their income and the number of family members.

¢All prospective residents age 18 or older must successfully complete an approval process before becoming a resident; they must “recertify” every year.

¢The approval process includes background and credit checks and compliance with the payment process.

¢Families whose income increases over their designated maximum either must move out or move to “market pay” status.

¢Residents pay their own utilities and have an option for an exclusive cable contract.

¢Each project includes a park, a playground, a learning center, and a child activity center with supervision.

¢The management has “zero tolerance” for any resident involved in a crime.

¢Each family is limited to two vehicles and two assigned parking spaces.

¢Occupancy rates stay near 95 percent.

Tax credit

The Tax Credit Reform Act of 1986 created the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program to encourage developers to build affordable housing to meet a community’s needs. Owners must keep the units affordable for a specified number of years to receive the housing tax credits. Rents are defined and calculated based on median household income figures that the Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes each year. Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code contains the regulations for the program.

Source: HousingLink

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