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Sun Chase promises more affordable housing

Monday, May 16, 2016 by Jo Clifton

City Council approved planned unit development (PUD) zoning on second reading for the Sun Chase development in southeast Travis County, also known as the Southeast Travis County Municipal Utility District, on Thursday, with a new provision for 3 percent of single-family lots to be set aside for affordable housing.

The developer’s attorney, Richard Suttle, told Council that his client would donate an estimated 75 lots to be “owned, free and clear, by the city, and then from there, we would reach an agreement on how the homes get built. … We completely changed the approach that was in the MUD.”

The previous agreement, he explained, provided for 10 percent of homes in the development to be priced for those making 80 percent of the median family income (MFI) on first-time sale only.

But the new agreement, Suttle said, is a different approach. The 2012 MUD agreement will no longer apply, and the developer will make a donation of 3 percent of developed single-family lots to the Austin Housing Finance Corporation.

There are no fee waivers involved, and the dollar amount is the same as what was in the MUD consent agreement, he said. “So we’re not getting a better deal, it’s just a different scenario, but you actually own lots in this deal.”

Sun Chase is within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction at Pearce Lane and Wolf Lane but fails to meet the transit-oriented part of SMART Housing requirements, according to a memo to Mayor Steve Adler and Council from Betsy Spencer, director of the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office.

Council Member Delia Garza said, “I have been pushing hard to get as many affordable units in these PUDs (as possible) because we’re losing working families, and it’s big concern of mine. So my understanding is, from the developer’s representative: We’ve been able to move from 2 percent” permanently affordable lots to 3 percent, “and I’m very glad we’re going in the right direction.”

Garza expressed hope that the developer would move closer to 5 percent by third reading of the ordinance.

However, those new permanently affordable homes will not be coming on the market any time soon. There are four separate municipal utility districts within Sun Chase that will be phased in, with MUD 1 to be developed first. That first development will not provide any lots that meet the affordability requirement, according to Spencer’s memo.

That memo also says the developer anticipates roughly four years before it conveys any lots to AHFC.

“The developer anticipates transferring approximately 4-5 lots per year over a 10 year period to AHFC. The lots would be provided in MUD 2, 3 and 4. AHFC will initiate a request for proposal for the developer of the lots, which could be completed by a for-profit or nonprofit affordable housing builder,” Spencer wrote.

The development should be completed in 2031 and include 2,472 single-family residences; 1,557 accessory dwelling units, town houses and four- to six-plexes; and 2,400 multifamily units, according to the memo. The developer also anticipates 65.5 acres of office and commercial development.

The provision for affordable housing in this agreement avoids the brouhaha over the waiver of an estimated $59 million for water utility and development service fees to finance affordable housing at Pilot Knob, the Brookfield Residential subdivision. The affordable housing component of that agreement was sent back to staff and the Planning Commission but will return to Council.

Photo by Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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