Affordable Housing

Joy Diaz/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

If you're a regular listener to the Standard, you may remember Courtney Meeks. She's homeless and pregnant. When we met her in January, Meeks was standing at the corner of a busy intersection in Austin asking drivers for money. Back then, she thought she was really close to giving birth.

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

As Austin’s housing prices continue to rise, the push for more affordable housing has grown louder, and there's an even greater need for places large enough to fit a family.


Miguel Guitierrez Jr. / KUT

Austin City Council members will decide Thursday whether to revisit an affordable housing deal approved by vote in December. But just how they might go about reconsidering it is complicated.

The deal – called Pilot Knob – would move anywhere from $50 to $80 million dollars normally slotted for Austin Water’s coffers and put it into the city’s affordable housing trust fund. That financial information though, many council members have said, was not available to them at that December vote.

Image via Flickr/Nan Palmero (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

According to Forbes, Texas has four of America's next boom towns: Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Thanks to technology hubs like Austin and "opportunity cities" like San Antonio, Texas is pretty much the blueprint for America's cities of the future.

Image credit Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Few things translate into all cultures and backgrounds. Homelessness is one of them. No matter the country, there are people living in the streets. What varies is how communities try to deal with the issue.

In Austin, Alan Graham has spent decades feeding and housing the destitute with Mobile Loaves and Fishes, the organization he founded. Today Graham will be named Citizen of the Year by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. And while you may not have heard his name, chances are you've heard one of his most well-known prescriptions for homelessness – building communities of tiny houses for the disabled and chronically homeless.

Photo credit Joey Palacios/Texas Public Radio

From Texas Standard:

Texas Public Radio news director Shelley Kofler  has spent the past week on the impacts of population growth. TPR staff visited Fredericksburg and Bexar County, as well as middle-income and historic neighborhoods in San Antonio. She shared with the Standard some of the newsroom conversations she and her staff had that led to the "Growing Pains" series.

"A lot of this started just with us sharing our personal experiences in the newsroom," Kofler says. "And then we checked it out, and we looked at the data, and we said 'We have some real serious challenges here.'"

 


Image credit Jon Shapley/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

House Bill 11, passed during the 2015 legislative session, is a sweeping law pitched as part of a broader $800 million border security effort. It expands the border presence of the Texas National Guard, green-lights hiring more troopers, and mandates an intelligence center to analyze crime data at the border.

One of the law’s other provisions has recently drawn a lawsuit that's just now making headlines. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, better known as MALDEF, has filed suit against Texas over what's called the “immigrant harboring” provision. They argue that it's unconstitutional under federal law.

 


Joy Diaz/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

What's the most indulgent thing you've ever done for your birthday? Checked something off your bucket list? Or bought yourself something really expensive? This week, Austinite Taylor Thompson turns 17 and he’s decided to go all out on a spending spree. Normally, birthdays at the Thompsons' are low-key celebrations. The family doesn't even blow up balloons.

This year, however, Taylor Thompson will be spending $170,000 dollars to celebrate his birthday. He announced his plans over the weekend in Austin.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Demolition, it seems, follows Robin Wilkins.

Wilkins, 54, moved into the Lakeview Apartments on South Lakeshore Boulevard after another apartment building she was living in was slated to be torn down. She stayed for five years, paying no more than $720 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. Nonetheless, throughout that stay she knew the fate of the building: oblivion.


Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Victoria Hernandez and her son Jayden wake up at 5 a.m. each day for Jayden’s pre-kindergarten class at Travis Heights Elementary School. They get ready at their apartment complex on Stassney Lane, four miles away from Travis Heights. Then, they walk to the bus stop to wait for the number one bus.

By the time they embark, it’s about 6:30 in the morning — the sun has just started to rise.

Jon Shapley/KUT News

It’s no secret that there's not enough housing in Austin. The city has few homes with more than three bedrooms, and it doesn't have enough affordable housing.

There’s even a scarcity of upscale homes. Rents have risen as that market has gotten tighter, too. Has the housing demand led more landlords to engage in unfair housing practices?

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Most Austin residents are renters and, chances are, you might be a renter yourself.

But some Austinites living in trailer parks aren’t necessarily guaranteed the perks of a leasing agreement and, as residential and commercial development sprawls across the city, some worry landlords may cash out and sell off parks.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

If you've lived in Austin for a few years, you're probably familiar with the Pecan Grove RV Park. It's where actor Matthew McConaughey "lived" for years. It's a well-kept park that has even become a tourist attraction.

But it's the exception when considering the city's other RV and mobile home parks.

Most parks live a hidden existence of disrepair and neglect.

One reason why we seldom hear about them in Austin is because they are purposely kept under the radar.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Now that the new Austin City Council is in place, it faces a challenge: On the one hand, council members know just how necessary affordable housing is. Virtually all of them ran on an "affordability" platform.

Advocates will tell you Austin is short tens of thousands of housing units specifically for low-income residents. Non-profits have been working hard in recent years to building more affordable housing (below-market rate units for low- and middle-income residents, often subsidized through public and/or private funding).

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

Thousands of people in Austin have applied for low-income housing vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program since the city's waitlist reopened last week.

It’s been eight years since the subsidized housing program's wait list has accepted new applicants. That's because of limited affordable housing stock in Austin and demand for the program.

Wells Dunbar/KUT News

Austin’s long on housing stock, but the city's still struggling to expand affordable housing options across Austin.

Today, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance to “create” more affordable housing units by requiring existing apartments to accept Section 8 housing vouchers – subsidies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that can pay up to 70 percent of rent for low-income, disabled and elderly tenants.

The ordinance increases options for Section 8 holders ninefold, but some landlords aren’t happy about it.

flickr.com/milestonemanagement

The rental market in Austin is hot. The Austin Board of Realtors says more units are being leased than last year and the prices are higher.

But the City of Austin says it can be hard for people who use housing vouchers to find a place to live. Now, some city commissions are considering adding “source of income” discrimination [PDF] to a list of banned landlord behavior.

A study found fewer than 10 percent of rental units in Austin currently accept vouchers – a move that critics say contributes to a concentration of poverty in the northern and eastern parts of the city.

flickr.com/polymerchemist

The deadline to file a protest regarding your property tax appraisal is fast approaching – Monday, June 2.

Many people in Travis County are shocked to learn how much their property values – and consequently, their property taxes ­– might go up this year. County officials say valuations have risen roughly 15 percent on average this year. But as seen in this local Reddit discussion, many homeowners are facing 25 percent and 30 percent increases ­– and higher.

Sticker shock is so prevalent, Travis County Commissioners say their phones haven't stopped ringing from residents calling, asking for help. 

flickr.com/gjmj

If you live or work in the City of Austin, have you asked yourself why you chose to work or live where you do? Well, the City of Austin wants to know the answers to those questions to help plan for the future.

The city is conducting a “housing choice survey.” But with the current shortage of housing, do Austinites have any real choice in where they live?

Word on the street is that Austinites have very few housing choices. At least, that’s what rapper “Blind Man” says as he finds his way with his cane to a bench on East 11th Street.

flickr.com/milestonemanagement

This story was co-reported with Reporting Texas, a project of UT Austin's School of Journalism.

Once again, Austin has landed at the top of another list. But this one doesn’t put the city in the best light.

In Austin, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,074 per month – the highest in Texas. That amount is $202 more than the average fair market rent for the state.

The figure comes from the National Low Income Housing Coalition's annual “Out of Reach” report, which details how much it costs to live in different metropolitan areas around the United States.

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