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City to study Fleet Services site for housing

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 by Jo Clifton

In the continuing effort to find ways to create more affordable housing, City Council directed City Manager Spencer Cronk last week to assess the site that currently houses Fleet Mobility Services as a possible location for housing. The department at 1190 Hargrave St. provides service to about 7,000 city vehicles in 25 departments, from the Fire Department to Austin Energy and Austin Resource Recovery.

According to the resolution, the site is near “multiple key city assets,” including the Boggy Creek Greenbelt and Rosewood Park, Eastside Early College High School and Austin Community College-Eastview. It is also within walking distance of Oak Springs Elementary and Kealing Middle School.

The resolution notes that “city-owned land has the potential to provide substantial community benefits in East Austin where rising valuations make land acquisition challenging and ultimately make it more difficult to deliver affordable housing and commercial space for residents, businesses and creative spaces.”

Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison was the lead sponsor of the resolution, with Council Member Kathie Tovo offering some amendments to ensure an emphasis on affordability and environmental remediation.

Since the site has been used to service vehicles for many years, there is little doubt that gasoline, oil and other vehicle-related pollutants have seeped into the property. Tovo wanted to make sure Council would be informed of any necessary remediation as well as the cost and potential funding sources.

Tovo proposed adding a section to the resolution to include “community members and stakeholders within the African American Cultural Heritage District,” as well as affordable housing nonprofits as potential partners.

While there was no apparent disagreement with most of Tovo’s amendments, Harper-Madison pushed back against the idea of eliminating market-rate housing from the verbiage. “I don’t think that striking market-rate from housing would be beneficial,” she said. “This site is sandwiched between two large income-restricted communities, very large income-restricted units – Booker T. Washington and Mount Carmel provide deeply affordable housing. Adding another income-restricted development would continue habits of concentrating poverty on the east side.”

While deeply affordable, Mount Carmel has had some livability issues, with residents forced to move out last year after Winter Storm Uri cut off their gas service.

A look at the Booker T. Washington Terrace website shows no units of any size available.

Tovo also proposed adding a requirement for certain community benefits, including outdoor sports and recreation on the site so that any children who might live in a future apartment complex on the site would have a place to play. There was no objection to that amendment.

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