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Chad Swiatecki is a 20-year journalist who relocated to Austin from his home state of Michigan in 2008. He most enjoys covering the intersection of arts, business and local/state politics. He has written for Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Daily News, Texas Monthly, Austin American-Statesman and many other regional and national outlets.
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Supportive housing institute to push 550 new units toward city goal of 1,300
The city’s goal to build its way out of its homelessness crisis will get a boost next year from six local organizations going through training from one of the national leaders in creating supportive housing for the homeless.
Last week, the Corporation for Supportive Housing announced it is teaming up with the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation, J.P. Morgan Chase and Texas Capital Bank to open the new Texas Supportive Housing Institute based in Austin. The new organization, which will be housed out of TSAHC’s local offices, will train local homelessness groups as well as developers and property managers in best practices to build new units for the homeless and provide the services needed to help residents find stability and thrive.
The six organizations receiving training – Austin Area Urban League, the Cady Lofts development team, Caritas of Austin, Family Eldercare, Integral Care, and SAFE Alliance – will participate in classes through December, with each presenting their plans in January to create hundreds of deeply affordable new homes to help the local homeless population.
Those new units – 550 total is the expectation for the six participants – will figure into the city’s goal of building 1,300 new units for the homeless, with vouchers intended to help find housing for another 1,700 individuals. Last year, the city announced a $550 million plan to house 3,000 homeless people using a mix of federal, county and city funds along with contributions from philanthropic groups. As of last week that plan had reached 90 percent of its funding goal.
Mayor Steve Adler said the institute, which is assisting a city for the first time since it convened two years ago, will provide much-needed expertise for groups that are familiar with the challenges of Austin’s homelessness crisis.
“Homelessness is not a problem that lends itself to quick solutions; it requires extensive funding, long-term planning and consistent community support. Unfortunately, no city has ended homelessness as it is one of our greatest challenges nationally,” Adler said via email. “There are, however, American cities that underscore if homelessness is left unaddressed, a difficult problem becomes an unmanageable problem. In building out our own system to address our unsheltered residents, we visited cities like San Francisco and LA to learn what worked and lessons we could learn.”
Michael Wilt, senior manager of external relations for TSAHC, said the money already raised by the city for the larger 3,000-unit goal will be helpful because portions can be allocated specifically for city- or area-level service programs that are hard to fund with individual supportive housing projects.
“The biggest challenge is how you pay for this type of housing. Supportive housing is hard to finance, because most multifamily developments carry debt that is serviced through rental payments from tenants. But with supportive housing, the rents are extremely low because tenants have little to no income. On top of this, you need a sustainable services program which requires significant overhead expenses. Financing just one development is complicated, but what we’re trying to do in Austin is finance multiple developments at the same time,” he said via email.
“That could be the community’s greatest strength and what may make this successful.”
Wilt said having six groups working on supportive housing projects that are already funded and have the same goal of completing construction within three years will likely create momentum in the market.
“With this cohort, we anticipate our level of success will be much higher because our teams are around the same stage in the development process, and they have capital commitments to construct their developments. That latter consideration is typically the biggest barrier. This is a testament to the resources the city and county have committed to this endeavor and the shared vision these teams have towards building successful supportive housing developments.”
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
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