SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — San Marcos City Council members unanimously passed changes to its affordable housing policy Wednesday night.
One of the biggest changes is opening up tax breaks as an incentive to get more developers to build units people can afford.
Supporters say it’s a move in the right direction.
“I think it’s a great first step,” Steven Hyden says.
Hyden has had trouble finding affordable housing, too.
A few weeks ago, he moved out of one building.
“My entire apartment turned into a construction zone with a six-foot hole in it,” he says.
He originally chose the building because rent was cheap; $625 dollars a month.
The student considers himself lucky; he studies urban planning at Texas State and knew who to call to fight for repairs.
He also eventually received emergency financial aid to move out.
But Hyden says other tenants aren’t so lucky.
“The neighbor in front of me was still getting all the sewage and waste and they felt like they deserved it because they paid so little for rent. So they’re shaming themselves for being poor,” Hyden says.
He says low-income individuals and families put up with poor living conditions because they’re afraid that complaining will lead to higher rent or even eviction.
And there aren’t very many other options.
An outside study showed that for people making $25,000 or less, San Marcos was nearly 6,000 units short when it came to affordable housing.
“They’re terrified,” Hyden says.
That’s why he supports San Marcos’ new plan that would help bring more affordable housing to the city.
But some homeowners are concerned about change coming to their neighborhoods.
“This is ridiculous. Established neighborhoods are being destroyed,” says James Bryant, Jr., who built his home on Crystal Cove in the 1980s.
“This was an investment for the Bryant family. We wanted to be here ’til hell froze over, okay? And we didn’t expect houses being rented out to students,” Bryant says.
Bryant is worried the affordable housing units will fall into disrepair and he doesn’t trust the city will keep up with code enforcement.
“I would have more credibility with someone telling me, ‘Yes, we’re going to land on Mars in the next seven years,’ than the city of San Marcos telling me anything,” he says.
Bryant doesn’t want to see his hard-earned property value go down.
San Marcos’ affordable housing policy changes also include what those units will look like going forward, including making sure a portion are ADA accessible and are close to bus stops.