Lavaca has, since its earliest history, been a community of mixed incomes. While the captains of industry had their grand homes in King William along the river, the artisans, stonemasons, and laborers who built those grand homes built their own homes in Lavaca. The area east of Labor St, now known as Victoria commons, was once known as The Baptist Settlement, home to the city’s largest African-American community at the time.
“In 1871, twenty-two freed slaves established Mount Zion First Baptist Church along Santos Street. Records of the church indicate that Mount Zion was the heart of the Baptist Settlement, providing not only spiritual guidance, but also serving as the social center of the settlement. The church remained at the Santos Street location until [about] 1925.” The church was then moved to its current location on what is now Martin Luther King Blvd
Census data from the early 20th Century indicate that it was also home to many Mexican-Americans and Polish immigrants. In the late 1930s, in response to a housing crisis, the federal government initiated plans to build apartment communities for families struggling to overcome the Great Depression. The residents in the area of Lavaca known as the Baptist Settlement sold their land to the newly-formed San Antonio Housing Authority, and most moved to Denver Heights and Dignowity Hill. Their homes in Lavaca were demolished to create the Victoria Courts, one of the first housing projects developed.
For 45 years, Victoria Courts was home to many families. There’s even an organization, “Victoria Courts Alumni,” whose president joined our LNA General meeting last week. It was very much a community.
Fast forward to the mid-1990s. The buildings had deteriorated substantially and ultimately Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ordered them demolished. In doing so, the agreement was to utilize the property to its greatest potential, to offer both market rate and affordable housing. The area would become known as Victoria Commons.
San Antonio has long been known as a low cost of living city. But in the past decade, housing costs have increased dramatically, particularly in the urban core. From 2011-2016, the median value of housing in some block groups in neighboring communities increased by 84% to 180%. On these blocks, median income in 2016 ranged from $17,000 to $49,000. Across the city, median rents have increased from $860 per month to $1,002 per month since 2018. The need for more affordable housing has never been greater.
What is Affordable Housing?
The term “Affordable housing” conjures up many images, most not quite accurate. In general, families should expect to pay no more than 30% of their income on housing, including transportation costs. Victoria Commons has been designed to include a mix of market rate housing and middle income (sometimes called “workforce”) housing to address this need. Lavaca’s proximity to downtown makes it an appealing place to live for people of all incomes. Transportation costs play a role in housing costs. So for many in the service industry that fuels our local economy, proximity to restaurant and hotel jobs means transportation costs are lower, bringing down overall living expenses.
Middle income housing is generally designed for those earning 60% to 120% of Area Median Income (AMI). Victoria Commons currently has 214 units for those earning 30% of AMI, this includes the recently renovated Victoria Plaza, soon to re-open with priority given to its former residents; 99 units for those earning 50% AMI and 87 units for those earning 60%-120% AMI.
What does Middle Income AMI look like?
The HUD value for AMI in San Antonio, which include New Braunfels, is nearly $72,000 per year per household. Some argue we must exclude New Braunfels to be more realistic, but that is how HUD calculates it and what SAHA must use.
|30%||$21,600||Food prep worker, sales clerk, cashier, home health aide|
|50%||$36,000||Retail sales, Admin Assistant, non-profit case managers, many city employees|
|60%||$43,200||Office Manager, Retail Supervisor, Management Analyst, starting teachers, starting accountants, nurses|
|120%||$86,400||Hospital Administrator, Senior Analyst, Engineers, Scientists, College professors|
Data from multiple sources, Glassdoor, salary calculators, COSA and SAISD
In Lavaca, many of these units provide housing for our local teachers, county and city workers, and hotel and restaurant staff. We’ll hear more on Tuesday from SAHA and Catellus about their plans for the final phase of Victoria Commons.
The Lavaca Neighborhood remains committed to being a community of diversity and inclusion.