Growth and Heritage Colliding in San Antonio

As demand for real estate grows, residents in the city's historic neighborhoods face rising costs and the threat of displacement.

October 12, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


San Antonio Christmas

Corey Leopold / Flickr

San Antonio, Texas is experiencing new growth and development in its historic core. But, as Patrick Sisson reports, "community advocates are pushing back against some of this growth, saying the new office and apartment towers are encroaching on the city’s historic neighborhoods that have formed a cultural core of Mexican American heritage."

As one of America's fastest growing–and also "one of the most segregated and poor"–cities, San Antonio is seeing rapid population growth, which requires new development. "A number of large-scale projects will bolster recent growth downtown. The $700 million Lone Star District should break ground this year; Essex Modern City, a $150 million multiuse district, finally cleared funding and regulatory hurdles; and the second phase of redevelopment within Hemisfair will break ground this fall."

But the availability of real estate in the city's "relatively small, walkable downtown" does not match the growing demand. "That demand, and the need for new housing, has worried advocates and community members in the Westside, a neighborhood of small stores, or tienditas, and tightly knit single-family homes that is a wellspring of affordable homeownership for low- to medium-income residents, with homes often passed down through generations." Levar Martin, chief program officer of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, says "[i]t’s not just about preserving the housing stock. It’s about people’s culture and life."

Advocates are calling for more investment in affordable housing and "recognition of historic architecture" that will protect communities. Advocates like Martin say "[n]ow is the time to figure out the right formula for preserving the city’s heritage and maintaining affordable housing."

"City and housing officials are grappling with what comes next, especially when it comes to access and affordability" for all income levels. "Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his administration have created means to invest in housing, including setting aside funding for affordable housing and establishing a $1 million risk mitigation fund in 2019 to help residents displaced by development, which will receive $4 million in additional funds this year." The city is also working on a new strategic housing plan that seeks to create 28,000 new units over the next decade. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 in The New York Times

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