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  • Writer's pictureTalia Hill

Affordable housing takes a few steps forward

Thursday, October 10, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Housing prices continue to climb in Austin as more people move to the music and tech mecca of Texas. According to Zillow, the median home value in Austin is $372,200, while the median list price is $399,000.

In adopting its Strategic Housing Blueprint, City Council set a goal of adding 135,000 new housing units to the city within the next 10 years. A few of those new units will be financed through the city’s housing trust fund.

When Council adopted its budget for 2019-20, it added $7.7 million to the housing trust fund in order to pay for additional affordable housing, some of it rental housing and some to help income-eligible families purchase their own homes.

Rosie Truelove, director of the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department, has outlined projects the Austin Housing Finance Corporation will be funding in the next few years.

AHFC currently owns seven properties intended for affordable ownership and rental housing. In a memo to Mayor Steve Adler and Council, Truelove said three projects are already underway, in districts 1, 7 and 10.

AHFC owns a single-family rental unit at 2008-B E. 10th St., which is in District 1, and is in the process of building an accessory dwelling unit on the same lot, with construction expected to be completed late this fall. According to Truelove, the ADU will be available as a rental unit to a family earning at or below 50 percent of the median family income. Currently, 50 percent of the median family income for a family of four is $47,300.

In District 10 at 3000 Funston St., Truelove writes, AHFC is planning to develop a three-bedroom home to be sold to a family earning at or below 80 percent MFI as part of the AHFC community land trust. Construction is expected to start this winter and be completed sometime in the spring, with sale of the property next summer. A family of four could earn $75,500 per year to be at 80 percent MFI, according to city data.

Gina Copic, who serves as real estate development manager for AHFC, told the Austin Monitor that the department is particularly excited about the purchase of properties from the Austin Independent School District, especially the one on Funston, because it’s right across the street from a school. She looks forward to promoting the property to school district employees.

Copic explained that under the community land trust, the homebuyer will be purchasing the home, but the housing trust fund will continue to own the underlying property. The buyer may sell the house, but the new buyer must qualify under the same financial guidelines as the original purchaser and must also lease the underlying land from the housing trust fund.

A tract of land on Doris Drive in District 7, formerly owned by AISD, will be developed into a mix of affordable rental units for those at or below 50 percent MFI. On the same site, AHFC plans four single-family homes for sale to qualified buyers earning at or below 80 percent MFI. The ownership properties will be part of AHFC’s community land trust. According to Truelove, the property must be subdivided and there is some need for infrastructure design and installation.

Truelove anticipates finalizing design and subdivision layout this fall and submitting the plans for review by the Development Services Department. After plans are approved, the builder will begin installation of the utilities and working on the site. Construction should begin next summer, with units being completed next fall.

Copic said the department works with a rotating list of construction companies to build its housing. Only one of the properties, on East 10th Street, is currently under construction.

The housing trust fund also has three vacant sites that Truelove said would be available for development through the competitive request for proposal process. She said staff members expect the sites to require rezoning and do not anticipate construction to be completed before 2023. The sites include a 6-acre tract on Gardner Road/Levander Loop; a 5.15-acre tract on Tillery/Pecan Grove and an 8.9-acre tract on Tannehill Lane.

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