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Commission still seeking ways to move affordable housing west

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The city’s seven-year $55 million affordable housing bond proposal, passed by the voters in 2006, has been taking shape according to plan, although members of the Community Development Commission, which met Thursday night, admit they’d like to see more single-family housing proposals and affordable housing in West Austin.

In a discussion after the night’s meeting, Commission Chair Karen Paup described the process on bond expenditures as fairly positive, although the rental assistance side remains oversubscribed

Subcommittee chair Myron Smith would like to see affordable housing throughout the city. “We revised our criteria and scoring to up more housing on the west side,” Smith said. “That’s what we’re looking for, more housing west of Interstate 35.”

Smith said the average applicant appears to ask for around $1 million from the fund, although there’s a wide range of requests. The biggest challenge with funding, right now, is seeking an IRS opinion on which developers of single-family homes qualify for tax-exempt bonds, Smith said. In the meantime, the city has gotten some funding for Habitat for Humanity, an international non-profit group.

Smith noted that the issue of waiving developer fees had been raised at a prior subcommittee meeting. So the full committee, at some point, may consider how to reduce or waive fees on a development, while preserving the affordable housing fund. The group also continued the discussion of how density impacts affordability in Austin.

The City Council ultimately decides which projects to fund, and approved three proposals last month.

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