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Council approves permanent supportive housing in Hancock

Friday, June 10, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

City Council Thursday unanimously approved a rezoning for Cady Lofts, a project that will bring 100 homes for people experiencing homelessness to 1004-1008 E. 39th St. in the Hancock neighborhood. 

The project includes studio units in a 3- and 4-story building complete with on-site services for residents in a setup called permanent supportive housing. 

The development team includes SGI Ventures and the Austin Affordable Housing Corporation as developers and New Hope Housing, Saigebrook Development and O-SDA Industries as consultants. The project marks the first entry into the Austin market for New Hope Housing, a Houston-based affordable housing developer. 

To make the project work, the development team requested Multifamily-Moderate Density (MF-4) zoning on three lots – two with Limited Office (LO) zoning and the other with Family Residence (SF-3) zoning.

Though the rezoning proved uncontroversial at Council (and at the Planning Commission), it did draw opposition from some neighbors. In addition to formally opposing the rezoning, the Hancock Neighborhood Association tried to stall the project through postponement requests and even threatened legal action. This week, however, HNA reversed course, voting June 6 to withdraw its opposition after additional conversation with the development team and affordable housing advocates. 

HNA President Coan Dillahunty said while the association is still concerned about the lack of sidewalks along East 39th, “we look forward to working with Cady Lofts on the site plan and ensuring the best possible outcome for this high-profile project in Central Austin.” 

João Paulo Connolly, an organizer with Austin Justice Coalition who helped rally support for the project, thanked the neighborhood association members “for being willing and open to have dialogue … and for being willing to reconsider their initial position on the project.” 

“We know this is just one project … but the symbolic value of this project and getting everyone to stand behind it is to say that (affordable housing) is an absolute priority for our community,” Connolly said. 

Overall, many more people spoke in favor than opposition at both the Planning Commission and Council, a rare occurrence in zoning cases. Social justice and housing advocates rallied around the project partly because of where it is located. Affordable housing – especially catering to people experiencing homelessness – remains difficult to build in expensive neighborhoods (as a recent report from nonprofit HousingWorks Austin shows), with not only high land prices but restrictive zoning and neighborhood opposition often standing in the way. 

Cady Lofts will receive a large chunk of its funding from low-income housing tax credits, which are administered through a competitive process. The project scores top in its region in part because there are no other affordable housing projects in its census tract, meaning it will likely receive 9 percent tax credits in July. The team hopes to start construction sometime next year.

Rendering of Cady Lofts, courtesy of Saigebrook Development.

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