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Council weighs supporting affordable housing development in North Austin

Thursday, February 9, 2017 by Syeda Hasan

Today, City Council is set to consider throwing its support behind nine affordable housing projects, all vying for competitive state tax credits that could help fund the developments. But some residents who live near one of these proposed projects in North Austin aren’t so happy with the idea.

For Donna Clayton and her teenage son, finding an affordable home in Austin has been a long road. After months of searching, the family now lives in a two-bedroom apartment in North Austin. They used to own a house in Manor, but then, life happened. Clayton got divorced. She faced some health issues. She had to go on disability assistance. Eventually, Clayton could no longer afford a home for her and her son.

“I was homeless for, honestly, probably about a year and a half,” Clayton said. “I did have family that allowed me to stay with them, but when you’re an independent person and you’re used to having your own, it’s still hard.”

That’s what drove Clayton to testify at a recent Council meeting. She spoke in support of the Elysium development. Clayton said she wants others to have the same chance at housing that she’s had. The Elysium project is being proposed by the same developers that built her home.

Council members also heard from several members of the nearby Northwood Neighborhood Association, which has strongly opposed the project. The group declined to comment for this story, but at a Council meeting last week, members raised concerns about the potential increase in traffic, the flooding risk and other issues they felt could be brought on by the development.

Despite those concerns, Council members at last week’s meeting granted the project initial approval for the rezoning it needs to go forward. Megan Lasch, a co-owner of the Elysium project, said they have modified their plans to try to address neighbors’ worries.

“We have worked successfully with neighborhood associations in Austin to help show them that we are a developer that is willing to roll up our sleeves and work side by side with them, because that’s all we’re trying to do is provide more homes for people,” Lasch said.

Rezoning is one piece of the puzzle. Developers are also trying to secure competitive state tax credits that make up a significant part of the project’s funding. As part of their application, the developers need to win support from local government leaders, which Council will vote on today. Council members will have to come back for a final vote on rezoning the property before the Elysium project can break ground.

If approved, Lasch says they plan to build about 90 affordably priced units.

Photo by John FlynnThis story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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