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TAKE ACTION: Support SAHA Tenants Union

SAHA protest
Tenants and supporters protest unsafe conditions at SAHA buildings, April 2019. Image: SBG San Antonio.

San Antonio Tenants Union’s year-end summary of organizing successes and call for ongoing support.

Pancho Valdez

After complaining for over six months and having our issues ignored by the local news media, KABB-TV reporter Darian Trotter took a big step in exposing how lack of security at apartments managed by the San Antonio Housing Authority resulted in vandalism to over a half dozen cars at Villa Tranchese, a SAHA building for the aged and disabled. Over the past year, SAHA has cut its security budget by 43 percent. Yet the SAHA administration building has armed security, a metal detector, and bullet proof glass separating the public from the receptionist!

Trotter’s coworker Morgan Burrell went on to expose the blatant racial discrimination at Chatham, a SAHA building on the Southside also for elderly and disabled residents. There, tenants have complained about a small group of Mexican-American tenants who use derogatory language towards Black and White tenants and refuse to let them use the Community Room, an amenity paid for by all tenants. But they are protected by Marie Flores, the property manager at Chatham. Upper SAHA management is well aware of this discrimination but chooses to ignore it. Recently, the Texas Attorney General’s office reprimanded SAHA for obstructing the discrimination case of James Hamilton, a tenant union activist.

At Blanco, another building for elderly and disabled residents, SAHA management has ignored a long history of mold and mildew in the building. Its response has been to simply paint over the mold, which has caused some residents to become ill, including Ruth Rodriguez, who has been struggling with SAHA for over seven years. Her concerns caught the interest of District 1 City Councilman Roberto Treviño, who made an unannounced visit to the Blanco apartments and saw for himself the mold and other hazardous conditions. An active member of the San Antonio Tenants Union, Ruth Rodriguez was recently appointed to the SAHA Board of Commissioners by Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

And yet despite evidence of discrimination from the State Attorney General and hazardous conditions from Councilman Treviño’s office, SAHA has refused to address these problems and called us liars!

In late October, a group of tenants from the Alazan-Apache apartments publicly exposed SAHA’s illegal practice of lease violations and evictions. These folks were also referred to as liars.

Protest at meeting of San Antonio’s Housing Commission, October 2019. Still image from video by SBG San Antonio.

The San Antonio Housing Authority is a federally funded agency. SAHA tenants also pay rent. We feel that SAHA is violating our right to “a decent, sanitary and safe living environment” as mandated by HUD.

We also feel that SAHA bosses are not qualified for their positions as they are not respectful of the mostly Black and Brown, low-income tenants who live in SAHA buildings.

At the local level, Council representatives Roberto Treviño (D1) and Rebecca Viagran (D3) have been helpful. At the federal level, only Congressman Joaquin Castro has been helpful.

Despite long interviews with tenant organizers, the San Antonio Express-News hasn’t published much on this issue. The San Antonio Heron has published info on Alazan-Apache (See: “‘It’s Like Prison’” and “SAHA Eviction Policy Under Review“), as has the Rivard Report.

We need your assistance as well.

Take Action

Contact SAHA CEO David Nisivoccia at david_nisivoccia@SAHA.org.

Demand that he:

  • Respect the rights of all SAHA tenants to live in SAHA buildings free of discrimination and harassment
  • Abide by HUD regulations that mandate a “decent, sanitary, and safe living environment” for all tenants.

Contact Mayor Ron Nirenberg and your congressional representative with the same demands.

Together we can bring justice to SAHA tenants!

Pancho Valdez is a retired social worker, a resident of SAHA, and an organizer for the San Antonio Tenants Union.

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