For the last several years, the San Antonio Housing Authority has been planning a project that would see the Alazán-Apache Courts, the city’s oldest public housing complex, demolished and replaced with mixed-income housing. The plan was controversial for several reasons. Residents feared that they wouldn’t be able to afford to return to the complex after it was rebuilt, and that they wouldn’t be able to find other affordable apartments elsewhere in San Antonio, even with housing vouchers. And some advocates have said that the project could swiftly gentrify San Antonio’s West Side.
Last fall, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Alazán-Apache Courts on its annual list of “most endangered places.” Residents protested the plan as recently as January. Then, after the housing authority’s executive director left for a position in Denver, the authority changed course. Instead of partnering with private developers to redevelop the courts as a mixed-income community, it committed to keeping all of the public-housing units that exist onsite. Most of the units will still be demolished and replaced over time, but the replacement units will be public housing, owned and operated by the housing authority, rather than privately owned apartments rented to voucher holders.
The San Antonio Housing Authority’s interim president and CEO, Ed Hinojosa, Jr., recently spoke with Next City about why the group decided to commit to keeping Alazán-Apache Courts intact as a public housing community, and how attitudes toward public housing are evolving.