San Antonio Housing Authority CEO Henry Alvarez has agreed to appear before a City Council committee to discuss complaints about shoddy construction and poor management at SAHA's Villas de Fortuna subdivision on the West Side.
"City staff asked us to participate in the Feb. 13 Urban Affairs Committee and we intend to do so," SAHA spokeswoman Melanie Villalobos said Tuesday.
Councilwomen Delicia Herrera of District 6 and Patti Radle of District 5 raised the possibility of questioning Alvarez at a stormy citizens-to-be-heard session at last Thursday's council meeting. Fortuna residents in attendance recited a litany of problems with the houses they are buying from SAHA and the way the lease-to-purchase program is being managed.
Alvarez's appearance could signal the beginning of a city investigation of SAHA being sought by Herrera, Radle and other council members. He may also appear before the entire council in a March work session to answer questions about SAHA's plans and operations.
"I truly believe (SAHA's) performance has not been exemplary," District 10 Councilman Chip Haass told residents at the council meeting. "Maybe it's time for us to investigate. We need to get Henry Alvarez before City Council to explain what's going on."
Haass said Tuesday that Fortuna residents probably caught council members off guard, and it's time for Alvarez to speak before the entire council. His own concerns with SAHA include the fallout from the agency's aborted attempt to buy a high-end apartment complex near Stone Oak and a senior citizen's project in his district that fell through.
Distinct 8 Councilman Art Hall said Tuesday the inquiry should address any role the city played in the problems, including inspections, while keeping in mind that the issues are historic and the city, SAHA and the builder, KB Home, all have new leadership.
Villalobos previously said the agency would cooperate in any investigation.
"SAHA will be responsive to any and all requests from our elected officials," she said after last week's council meeting.
Fortuna residents told council members about teetering foundations, cracks in walls and floors, subsoil that wasn't remediated before construction, discriminatory pricing, repairs that don't last, possible fire hazards from water heaters and light switches, and SAHA's inconsistent response to their complaints.
Fortuna resident Ed Ocampo displayed a hand-size chunk of asphalt that he said came from his neighbor's yard.
"SAHA tells us we can't grow grass in our yards because we don't water enough," he said. "I think I could water that (asphalt) for five years, and I don't think it would ever grow."
Fortuna is part of the $48.2 million federally funded Mirasol Homes project, which has been plagued by construction and management problems, including shifting and cracking foundations.
KB Home, which built the houses, has said it will make good on the foundation problems. One house is being repaired at a cost of more than $32,000 and others are in line to be fixed.
SAHA declined comment on structural problems at the houses until an engineering report is finished.
For U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, residents' most recent complaints sound familiar.
"I don't know why these problems have surfaced again," Gonzalez said last week. "In 2003, I was assured that SAHA had put in place a plan to fix the problems at Mirasol Homes."