By Maria Nelson, ULI San Antonio Young Leaders Group Chair
As I sat in a room of over 400 attendees committed to creating resilient communities in San Antonio, one statement that was said by Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros when discussing equity stuck with me, “San Antonio is better prepared and we are the right city to do it.”
I processed that statement and others and asked myself, what can we do as a regular San Antonians to ensure that every neighborhood is an opportunity neighborhood? An opportunity neighborhood – as outlined in Building Equitable Cities – is a city that thrives by providing neighborhoods access to amenities and public services that will open the door to economic success.
I then realized that in May of 2017, we, the San Antonio voters, took a “place-based” approach in ensuring economic success across neighborhoods by supporting the $850 Million Bond Program – one that includes $20 Million for Neighborhood Improvements.
This Neighborhood Improvement bond will help clear property and install necessary utilities, sidewalks and streets in preparation for single-family, multi-family or mixed-use housing construction. This $20 Million improvement is in conjunctions with the Urban Renewal Plan that identifies twelve distressed areas across the City of San Antonio.
Fast forward to August of 2017, Mayor Ron Nirenberg established the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force and through August of 2018 over 500 community members had passionately spoken up and provided personal stories of the reality many San Antonioans are facing everyday to have access to affordable housing. And in September of 2018, the City Council acknowledged these voices by adopting the Housing Policy Framework.
So what does all this mean and why does it matter?
This means that now more than ever your voice is needed at the table. We need to continue to engage our passions. Whether that may be by enhancing our “people-based” approach by improving access to public education, financial health, workforce and skill development, or small business development or a “place-based” approach by working to improve education, safety, and other services in lower income areas. It also means showing up to vote in the upcoming elections, expressing support and/or concerns at public meetings, or volunteering with non-profits – they all count.
Together we voted for the bond improvements because we care for the quality of life across San Antonio neighborhoods.
The voice of every San Antonioan matters. We all have different perspectives but ultimately we know that if we work together and collaborate we can achieve economic success for tomorrow’s today.
Maria Nelson was appointed to the Board of the Office of Urban Redevelopment by Mayor Ron Nirenberg in 2018 and currently serves as the Chair of the Young Leaders Group for the Urban Land Institute San Antonio.