Affordable Housing Opportunity on Austin’s East Side
By Bettina Meier
By Bettina Meier
A proposed development in East Austin has some neighborhood activists hopeful about an increase in affordable housing.
When you walk around Robert Summers 25 acre former tank farm in East Austin you wouldn’t think that this could soon be a thriving community area. Thick bushes, grass and trees have claimed the former industrial zone. Summers and his partner, a local architect plan to turn the tract into a $35 million housing project called ThinkEAST. Summers hopes in the future Austinites working in technology, music, film, gaming and other creative fields will pick here to live.
“We envision a type of city center within the city,” Summers said, “a very urban people friendly area where creative people can actually live, work and sell out of the same unit. And we intend to develop 8 acres or basically a third of the tract what will be a hundred per cent affordable housing.”
That area will be reserved for families earning 30 to 80 percent of Austin’s median family income, so between $23,000 and $60,700 a year. Daniel Llanes says dedicating a third of a new development area to affordable housing and the promise to keep the rents in the rest of the area reasonable too, is rare. Llanes heads the local neighborhood planning team. He represents local homeowners, renters and small businesses
“Go to any other part of town you don’t find it. It is always conflict. Developers, neighborhoods bang bang bang. City Council gets in the way. And here it is not like that,” Llanes said, “so then it will be a win-win situation for the new people coming into our neighborhood and the existing population of our neighborhood.
To create the win win situation the developers have promised to sell the 8 acre portion for a low price to the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation. The group builds affordable housing spots to people with low income. Llanes says its housing the neighborhood desperately needs.
“This has been an oppressed and undeserved neighbourhood so people are naturally suspicious. Well we are hopeful for this project. This is the second project that we have been successful in negotiating upfront with the developers and bringing the neighborhoods together,” Llanes said.
If the project is successful it could create up to 150 new affordable homes. ThinkEAST has submitted their proposal to the City of Austin. The plan will eventually come before the City Council for final approval.