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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Zilker Neighborhood backs South Lamar Goodwill-apartments project
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano
The Zilker Neighborhood Association resoundingly approved an affordable housing project on South Lamar last night. Only one person out of 25 or so in attendance voted against the project, tentatively called the “Skyway Studios,” which will be the result of a partnership between Foundation Communities and Goodwill Industries of Central Texas.
The proposed project will rebuild the South Lamar Goodwill store, which is located at 2800 South Lamar Boulevard close to its intersection with Manchaca. It will also add 109 efficiency apartments above the store – with renderings showing the four-story residential component set back from the street and storefront.
“This will be the first time that we have partnered in this sort of way,” Elliot McFadden, communications coordinator with Foundation Communities told In Fact Daily.
“Normally, we are the sole developer and owner of our properties. Basically we’re partnering with Goodwill because they were looking at redoing that store on South Lamar and upgrading in a lot of ways. We’re doing that so they can upgrade and we can add efficiency apartments,” McFadden. “It’s like a joint ownership. So they own their space, and we own our space.”
Or, as Executive Director Walter Moreau explained, “They’re contributing the land, and we’re building them a store.”
The units will be rented to single adults who earn under $26,000 per year. Residents must first pass credit, criminal and rental history background checks. Rents on the studio units will be between $400 and $650 per month.
According to the application in place at the city, 60 percent of the units will be reserved for individuals with incomes below 50 percent of the Median Family Income, 20 percent for those below 40 percent MFI, and the rest for those individuals with incomes below 30 percent MFI, though, as noted, “the reality is that most residents will have incomes below 30 percent MFI.”
McFadden said that, typically, about two-thirds of residents are employed, with the remainder on a fixed income, such as disability.
In order to fund the project, Foundation Communities plans on applying for federal tax credits through the state of Texas. The nine-percent tax credits are a highly competitive process, and only three developments are expected to be approved in our region this year, out of more than 20 that will apply for the credits. Though the city has already shown their support for the project, the neighborhood had not, and the deadline for final applications is March 1.
“You pretty much have to get support of the neighborhood, because that’s part of the scoring process,” said McFadden. “So we always go in and ask for neighborhood support for what we do.”
As part of their mid-year surplus budget spending, City Council has earmarked $1.8 million towards the project, though funding is contingent on winning the state tax credits. In total, the project is expected to cost just under $16 million.
While they were very supportive of the project, the neighborhood expressed some trepidation about the second phase of the plan, which will require a zoning change on an adjacent lot for more parking. Moreau said that he was absolutely committed to working with the association to ensure that the zoning change did not set an unwanted precedent. He told the neighborhood association that he hoped the project would set a precedent for affordable housing in the area.
Foundation Communities is the owner and manager of about 2,000 units across the city, and they stress that each of their projects has been built in cooperation with local neighborhood associations.
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