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Housing department provides update on 2018 affordable housing bond expenditures

Tuesday, March 1, 2022 by Kali Bramble

As part of its efforts to ease the city’s affordability crisis, Austin’s Housing and Planning Department stopped by the City Council Housing and Planning Committee last Tuesday to brief members on the status of affordable housing programs.

The briefing tracked the $250 million in funding approved by voters in 2018Breaking down the spending, Housing and Community Development Officer James May said that $100 million of these funds had been front-loaded to land acquisition programs, translating to roughly 52.5 acres across seven Council districts reserved for affordable housing units. Furthest down the pipeline are three hotels expected to bring over 200 permanent supportive housing units sometime within the next calendar year.

Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison pointed out what appeared to be some regional disparity in the program, with District 1 totaling 0.45 acres of land acquired while other districts totaled as much as 18.

“Prior to the 2018 bond we purchased several parcels of land in District 1, including the recently completed Tannehill housing project, so we have been trying to even things out,” Housing and Planning Department staffer Mandy De Mayo said. “We were excited to acquire land in District 8, as West Austin has been historically excluded as an affordable housing site. But I assure you we’re not done yet.”

Staff members also reported progress on the Community Land Trust program, designed to enable homeownership for those earning under 80 percent of the median family income through the waiving of land price premiums spiking Austin’s real estate market. So far the program has successfully filled 15 homes, with another 29 available via a lottery system this spring.

In addition to land acquisition, staffers said the Rental Housing Development Assistance and Ownership Housing Development Assistance programs had received $94 million and $28 million in bond funding, respectively. Incentivizing affordable development via gap financing and subsidies, staff members pointed to the currently leasing Vi Collina complex and Espero at Rutland, leasing this fall, as examples of the program’s success. The two developments will add a total of 342 affordable units (ranging from under 50 percent to under 80 percent MFI) to the city’s portfolio.

Lastly, staff reported that the $28 million remaining in bond dollars has funded home repair programs that have successfully rehabilitated over 725 homes, including 124 units hit by Winter Storm Uri last February.

While the city still has a long way to go to meet its 2017 Strategic Housing Blueprint targets, which call for an ambitious 135,000 housing units in 10 years, the committee appeared pleased with existing progress. Next, the Housing and Planning Department will initiate the request for proposal process for an affordable housing development at 3515 Manor Road, aiming to provide 150 to 200 affordable units as well as 60 multifamily units for individuals exiting homelessness.

“We have extremely high goals, but in the next two to three years we expect to see a doubling of our existing affordable housing inventory thanks to these new developments,” May said.

Photo by BrokenSphere, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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