March 2011 eNewletter   |   SAHA WEB

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      SAHA’s Notable Achievements for 2010


        The first newsletter of the year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of the previous year.  The achievements of 2010 demonstrate SAHA’s commitment to improving our residents’ quality of life, expanding and preserving affordable housing, and providing excellent service.  SAHA looks forward to working with you and all of our partners to do even more in 2011.

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  • Achieved a high performer rating from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Section 8 Management Program (SEMAP)
  • In Public Housing, we increased our Public Housing Assessment Score  (PHAS) score from 83% to 88%
  • Obligated nearly $20 million in Recovery Act stimulus funds for capital improvement projects affecting 2,634 housing units at 37 of our family and elderly communities, and created or retained 196 jobs 
  • Constructed 641 new housing units at three mixed-income communities: San Juan Square II, HemisView Village and Artisan at Creekside
  • Employed 115 youth through SAHA’s new Summer Youth Employment Program
  • Weatherized 120 units at Dietrich Rd. Apartments and La Providencia
  • Received national recognition for outstanding performance in new construction design, internal development programs and resident services
  • Completed the annual financial audit with very favorable results
  • Effectively coordinated visits from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims and HUD Assistant Secretaries  Mercedes Márquez and John Trasviña
  • Made significant progress on SAHA’s and the Mirasol homeowners’ legal action against KB Home –  SAHA won several courthouse rulings requiring KB Home to produce documents, despite KB’s previous refusal to do so
  • Received HUD approval for our new Moving to Work plan

      HemisView Village’s Grand Opening Draws a Crowd

On December 7, 2010, Mayor Julián Castro and Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros joined representatives from the San Antonio Housing Authority, Capital One Bank, Carleton Development, and other community leaders and residents to celebrate the grand opening of HemisView Village, located near Durango St. and IH-37 at the gateway to downtown. The celebration took place in a courtyard with a view of downtown San Antonio, accompanied by mariachis from Edison High School.
HemisView Village, the third phase of development at Victoria Commons, features 245 one- to three-bedroom apartment homes.  Victoria Commons is the continuing redevelopment of the former Victoria Courts, which was originally built in 1941 with 660 units of public housing. The community is located in San Antonio’s downtown area within walking distance of many of the city’s historic and scenic landmarks.  “HemisView Village is continuing our revitalization efforts in this area and a renewed sense of community in this wonderfully diverse neighborhood,” said Lourdes Castro Ramírez, SAHA President and CEO.
The planning process for HemisView Village engaged a wide range of stakeholders, such as the Southtown, Lavaca and King William Neighborhood Associations, the San Antonio Conservation Society, the San Antonio Independent School District, business and community leaders, state and political leaders and previous Victoria Courts residents. “Community members, including neighborhood associations, played a critical role in helping us make decisions on the project,” said SAHA Chair Ramiro Cavazos. He added, “Having meaningful community participation was an important ingredient in the development process.”
HemisView Village is a premier example of public/private partnership. Capital One Bank provided construction and permanent financing for the project through the purchase of $18.5 million in tax-exempt bonds issued by an affiliate of SAHA.  In addition, SAHA provided $6.47 million from a HUD-funded HOPE VI grant and the city of San Antonio supplied $1.2 million from HOME funds.  Alliant Capital purchased $2.7 million of low-income housing tax credits issued through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
The developer for Victoria Commons is Dallas-based Carleton Development, LTD.  Beeler-Guest-Owens, the architects of record, worked together with San Antonio-based Lake-Flato Architects. The first phase of Victoria Commons, 210-unit Refugio Street Apartment Homes, opened in 2004, and the second phase, Artisan Park Townhomes, opened with 22 units in 2007.
      Seniors Celebrate the Holidays at 13th Annual Golden Gala

On Friday, December 17, 2010, more than 900 senior or disabled citizens living at San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) properties kicked off the holidays with food, entertainment and dancing at the 13th Annual SAHA Golden Gala.
Residents were transported from their homes to  the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to enjoy live music, a traditional holiday meal (served by 200 Valero and SAHA employee volunteers), and door prizes.  Santa Claus also made an appearance, handing out gifts that included blankets collected by Garcia Middle School students.
The Golden Gala tradition was started in 1997 when Sister Joe from St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Sammy Nieto from Valero and SAHA staff realized that elderly and disabled residents needed a true holiday celebration. The original Golden Gala was held in a small hall at St. Paul’s Church, and within two years it had outgrown the venue.  Today, it has become a premier event for SAHA’s elderly and disabled residents.

      SAHA Considers a Non-Smoking Policy

The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) is considering implementing a non-smoking policy for all its public housing communities. In July 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a notice strongly encouraging Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to implement non-smoking policies. So far, according to the Smoke-free Environment Law Project of the Center for Social Gerontology, over 112 housing authorities and  commissions across the country have implemented non-smoking policies.
“We are concerned about the health and safety of our residents,” said Lori Mendez, SAHA Directory of Public Housing for the Elderly or Disabled. Other potential benefits of a non-smoking policy include the decrease in the cost of rehabilitating the apartments when residents move out, the decrease of fire risk and damage, and decrease in exposure to secondhand smoke.
SAHA is presently  having meetings with residents to get their input on the policy,. which, if approved, will likely be implemented in phases. SAHA recently surveyed residents of Lewis Chatham Apartments, which will be reopening this spring after extensive renovations, and they were overwhelmingly in support of living in a non-smoking community. As a result, Lewis Chatham will likely be SAHA’s first smoke-free property.

      “Coffee with the CEO” Provides Residents a Monthly
      Communication Forum

Implemented in November 2010, “Coffee with the CEO” is a monthly meeting, where residents are invited to share their  issues, concerns, ideas, questions and suggestions with Lourdes Castro Ramirez, San Antonio Housing Authority’s (SAHA) President & CEO. SAHA senior managers  are also present to address issues that specifically affect their respective departments. If concerns cannot be immediately resolved, residents are given a staff  contact who will research the issue and send a written response within five working days. 
“Coffee with the CEO” is held on the first Wednesday of each month, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.at SAHA’s main office (818 S. Flores St., San Antonio, Texas), Boardroom.

      San Antonio’s Housing Voucher (Section 8) Program Receives
      “High Performer” Designation

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has designated SAHA a “high performer” for the agency’s administration and management of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV-Section 8) program.
As a federally-funded agency, SAHA’s Section 8 program is reviewed annually by HUD, using the Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) scoring system to assess the performance of the program. SAHA recently secured a score from HUD of 90 percent on the SEMAP, an increase of 4 percent from 2009 and 11 percent from 2008.
SEMAP uses 15 performance indicators, such as adherence to policies when selecting applicants for admission from the waiting list, enforcement of housing quality standards, and voucher utilization, to objectively measure a housing authority’s performance and identify management capabilities and weaknesses.
“A number of changes have been implemented over the last couple of years to improve the performance of Section 8 and responsibly house families in need of assistance. A score of 90 percent indicates a tremendous improvement and deserves a celebration of our entire staff,” said Lourdes Castro Ramirez, SAHA President and CEO.
Many steps have been taken by SAHA’s Assisted Housing Department to improve the management of the HCV program, including:
Greater focus on customer service - Because of SAHA’s designation as a Moving to Work agency, SAHA has the ability to develop policies and guidelines based on local needs, versus following standard HUD policies. For example, elderly residents can now recertify their eligibility every two years instead of yearly and select documents can now be verified by SAHA staff rather than being sent to an outside organization for verification. Changes such as these allow SAHA to streamline processes and provide quicker, more efficient service to clients.
Increasing staff capacity - More frequent training and providing staff with resources to increase their knowledge to enable them to more effectively and efficiently serve clients.
Strengthening program integrity - A number of steps have been implemented to improve the program’s integrity, such as implementing more sophisticated reporting systems, improving management oversight and ensuring our clients are residing in safe, quality, affordable housing by enforcing Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection accurately, fairly and consistently.

      Promise Neighborhoods Grant Awarded to San Antonio

On September 21, 2010, San Antonio community planning partners were awarded a $312,000 Promise Neighborhoods grant.  Under the leadership of  Mayor Julián Castro’s office,United Way and Trinity University, the community planning partners included the San Antonio Housing Authority, , the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Independent School District, Family Services Association, and the Urban Land Institute. The Promise Neighborhood grant will be combined with in-kind contributions of $102,800 and $74,260 to benefit students in the neighborhoods surrounding Wheatley Middle School and its feeder elementary schools (Washington, Pershing, Herff, and the Tynan Early Childhood Center). 
San Antonio is one of only 21 communities selected from a pool of 339 grant applications from across the nation. This one-year planning grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, focuses on improving educational outcomes by transforming distressed neighborhoods into communities of opportunity, by connecting housing and development resources to education and economic opportunities. Full funding for implementation in the Department of Education budget is critical to improve the lives of children, families, and the communities where they live.
Promise Neighborhoods is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, which combines high quality education with community and family-based support.

      SAHA Invests $20 million of American Recovery &
      Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Funds

The Recovery Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009, was an unprecedented effort to jumpstart our economy, create or save jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected capital improvement challenges. On February 29, 2009, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated $3 billion of the Recovery Act funds to public housing authorities. Out of 349 Texas housing authorities receiving Recovery Act funds, the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) received the highest amount, $14.5 million, to be used solely for public housing capital improvements. Then on September 23, 2009, HUD announced the competitive round of Recovery Act grants, and SAHA was awarded another $5,350,593, bringing SAHA’s total Recovery Act funding to nearly $20 million.
SAHA conducted a thorough review of the capital needs of the agency’s public housing properties, and established priorities for the allocation of Recovery Act funds, based on physical needs relating to life safety, health risk, property repair and energy efficiency.  Some of the planned upgrades included:

  • a comprehensive modernization improvements to Lewis Chatham Apartments, a 119-unit senior community located at 6405 S. Flores on the City’s South Side;
  • upgrades to elevator, fire alarm, and security systems at nearly twenty elderly communities throughout San Antonio, and at the Convent, an historical structure in SAHA’s Springview community;
  • safety and sustainability repairs and improvements to playgrounds at twelve public housing family communities throughout the City; and
  • various site and systems repairs and replacements, including windows, roofing , fencing, cabinets and HVAC systems.

The second round of funding allowed SAHA to undertake physical improvements to improve the accessibility of service providers to residents, such as:

  • Environmental abatement at Fair Avenue, Kenwood North, Villa Hermosa
  • Construction of sidewalk and exterior siding at Park View
  • Interior Common Area work at Lila Cockrell, Matt Garcia, OP Schnabel
  • CCTV security camera systems installed in common areas and parking lots at Matt Garcia, Cisneros, Jewett, Kenwood North, College Park, OP Schnabel
  • Upgrades to  windows and the installation of electronic accessible entries at the elevator lobby at Victoria Plaza
As of December 31, 2010, 34 contracts have been awarded and 196 jobs created, including architects, engineers, plumbers, office managers, and welders.
SAHA Launches $2.5 Million Jobs Program  

On February 24, 2011, the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) announced that more than 1,000 residents living at Alazan-Apache Courts and Mirasol Homes will have the opportunity to participate in a new employment and community building program – the Jobs-Plus program – thanks to the recent award of $500,000 annually over five years.
Councilman David Medina, SAHA leadership, Catholic Charities, and residents were on hand to celebrate the official kickoff of the Jobs-Plus program, a site-based approach to job placement and career services.
“SAHA currently has several programs aimed at providing resources and support to residents for self-sufficiency, including job employment,” said SAHA Board Chair Ramiro Cavazos. “But what makes this program different and unique is the level of one-on-one support participants will receive from on-site counselors and community support from their fellow residents.”
The SAHA Jobs-Plus program is supported by the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a public-private partnership administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  Local partners providing matching funds include Catholic Charities and the Annie E. Casey Foundation with United Way of San Antonio providing in-kind services.
SAHA was competitively selected by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, one of eleven Social Innovation Fund intermediaries, in partnership with the Center for Economic Opportunity, the City of San Antonio, and MDRC, a leading social policy research organization.
 “The intersection of education and employment is critical to the future of our city and our economy. I commend SAHA for implementing the Jobs-Plus program which continues the agency's efforts to encourage adults to obtain an education and acquire needed skills for employment,” said San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.
The Jobs-Plus model, initially designed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, MDRC, and a consortium of funders, is designed to raise and sustain the level of employment and earnings among residents of public housing developments by providing on-site counselors who will work with them to receive services tailored to their individual needs. The model also features a community-building component, which seeks to strengthen social ties and support for work among residents, and provides access to a range of financial incentives and work support services.
The program objective for the first year is to provide program outreach to 100% of the targeted communities’ work eligible population and to move 40-50% of those targeted into jobs by 2012.  The Jobs-Plus program model includes three components:

  1. The first is a comprehensive array of high-quality employment and training related services
  1. The second is financial incentives, such as a “rent freeze” program that allows the earnings from a new job to go into family savings instead of a higher rent bracket

Finally, the program will provide comprehensive community supports for work,  such as Community Coaches that provide work-related information sharing, peer support, and mutual aid
The Jobs-Plus model was initially piloted over a four-year period at six public housing communities across the country, with diverse racial and ethnic groups. Results show that where the model was fully implemented Jobs-Plus made a substantial difference in residents’ earnings. Based on this evidence, New York implemented the first replication of Jobs-Plus in the nation in 2009.