Affordable Housing

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

It’s early morning – still dark outside – and Walter Moreau is already done with his morning run. When I meet him he’s downtown, getting ready for his workout.

“I think there’s a lot of things here in the gym that translate to work,” he says.

Moreau leads Foundation Communities – Austin’s largest non-profit builder and manager of affordable housing.   

This interactive map was created using MLS data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors

Click on the dots to view the average sales price of Austin homes for each month from January 2008 to April 2013. 

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

If you’re going on a tour through the world of affordable housing, it’s good to have one of Austin’s most knowledgeable experts as your tour guide.

Meet Stuart Hersh. He’s a consultant with non-profit organizations that help produce affordable housing. During the last 30 years, Hersh has worked in a variety of fields that have to do with writing and enforcing building codes to writing affordable housing regulations.

flickr.com/gjmj

Last November, Austin voters were asked to approve almost $80 million for affordable housing.

They chose not to.

As the city considers putting the question to voters again this fall, KUT News asks: just how does affordable housing work in Austin?

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Residents at the Oak Creek Village apartments in south Austin are waiting to see if the state grants a developer tax incentives to construct a new, larger complex in its place.  The developer, Eureka Family Group, wants to keep 173 units as affordable housing — which would allow current residents to stay in their homes.

But, if the state doesn't approve the project, many residents might have to move.  Educators and parents at the nearby school — Travis Heights Elementary — are also concerned.

Mose Buchele, KUT News

Housing advocates in Austin and local religious and political leaders want to try again with a measure on November’s ballot for affordable housing dollars. So today they kicked off a Keep Austin Affordable campaign.

“As you know, the voters of Austin narrowly voted against the housing bonds last fall – not out of spite, or malice or unkindness,” said Marshall Jones with the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.

flickr.com/dingatx

The City Council adopted the Downtown Austin Plan in late 2011. With it, the council OK’d what’s called the Downtown Density Bonus Program. It basically says that developers who want to build more densely than the standards allow would have to offer certain community benefits: things like on-site affordable housing or a paying into a fund for affordable housing elsewhere.

But nearly a year and a half later, Austin’s still waiting on specific guidelines for the Density Bonus Program.

flickr.com/milestonemanagement

Austin has the highest average rent in the state of Texas. And Austinites trying to afford housing on minimum wage need to work close to three full-time jobs.

That’s according to a new study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The non-profit looked at the average fair market rent for Austin apartments and calculated how many hours minimum wage workers need to work so their rent is affordable – meaning it’s no more than 30 percent of their earnings.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Update: You can now read the full letter HUD sent to its grantees around the country, including Austin. 

Original Post (12:05 p.m.): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says the federal spending cuts known as the sequester will have an effect on affordable housing in the city.

Mayor Leffingwell says he was notified of the cuts by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Affordable affluence” may seem like an oxymoron. But, in the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin, a place where a modest one-bedroom/one bath home goes for a quarter of a million dollars, neighbors are trying something a little different. They’re making some homes affordable for families that would otherwise be priced out of the neighborhood. By the end of this week, two more families will be moving into newly renovated Clarksville homes.

Flickr user mvongrue, http://bit.ly/12nQ9Ck; Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

We’re still about a month away from March Madness, but Austin City Council members are already filling out their brackets.

The council is deliberating what to do with a $14 million budget surplus at mid-fiscal year – the result of higher-than-expected sales tax and development revenues. The council held one work session delving into the topic already; at its work session tomorrow, the council’s posted to take action spending all or part of the available surplus.

Mose Buchele, KUT News

The Austin City Council could take the first step toward another bond package aimed at affordable housing today. The proposal from council members Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman and Chris Riley tells city staff to start preparing for a bond election, although it does not specify a dollar amount.

flickr.com/atmtx

The days go by so fast: Today marks the last Austin City Council meeting of the year. And at 98 items, it’s going out with a bang. Here ‘s what council has stuffed in their stocking:

Don’t Start Your Engines?: An organizing group with the Circuit of the Americas just received more than $29 million from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund to help pay for costs associated with putting on November’s Formula 1 event.

Ryan Robinson, via the City of Austin

All City of Austin bonds passed on election night except one: Proposition 15, which would have dedicated $78.3 million to affordable housing.

The map above shows how Prop 15 lost.

 Ryan Robinson is demographer for the City of Austin. He produced this map, plotting how the vote against Prop 15 went. The darkest blue voting precincts went overwhelmingly against Prop 15 (by a margin of 65 percent or more); the warmer-colored precincts were mixed or voted in favor, with less than 40 percent of voters in red precincts voting against Prop 15.

 While Prop 15 carried Central Austin,  a majority of suburban precincts, largely west of MoPac, voted it down.

Mose Buchele for KUT News

Supporters of Proposition 15, a city ballot measure that would have spent $78.3 million on affordable housing, seem shocked that their bond proposal appears headed for defeat. It was the only bond proposition on the ballot that looks like it will be narrowly rejected. With almost 219,000 votes counted, 51.27 percent opposed the proposition and 48.73 supported it. 

“We’re going to have to take some time and figure out why the housing bond didn’t pass,” says Walter Moreau, executive director of the affordable housing non-profit Foundation Communities. “We had some visibility. We didn’t have opposition. We had support from the papers and Interfaith Action and affordable housing groups.”

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The city is proposing a 1.8 cent increase in property taxes. That’s just a hair under the maximum increase allowed – 1.85 cents – without a special tax election.

That’s one of the findings in the City of Austin’s preliminary, proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2013, presented to the City Council this morning.

Going off current median home values – approximately $182,000, but due to change once the county sets new property valuations – that’s a $33 annual increase.

Construction of affordable housing downtown could start in less than a year.

At a meeting tonight, Austin nonprofit Foundation Communities is making a pitch for their Capital Studios development – 135 apartments to be located on what's now a parking lot at 11th street and Trinity.  A Foundation Communities spokesperson tells KUT News Capital Studios will be the first truly affordable downtown development in the last 40 years – and with rents ranging from $400 to $650, all bills paid, it’s hard to argue.

The low rents are designed to attract Austinites that work and play downtown, but can’t afford to live there – primarily young adults making $27,000 annually or less. Ten of the units will be reserved for working musicians and artists. Another 27 units will provide permanent supportive housing for clients transitioning out of homelessness, processed through agencies like Caritas, the Trinity Center, and the ARCH.

Photo by KUT News

While Texans eagerly await any and all rain from tropical storm Don, one gulf city continues the work of rebuilding after Hurricane Ike.

The Galveston City Council narrowly dismissed a resolution Thursday to rebuild 569 public housing units off the island, The Galveston County Daily News reports.

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