Affordable Housing

Mark Gwin for KUT News

A diverse group of volunteers braved the heat Thursday to upgrade the residence of 107-year-old World War II veteran Richard Overton – the country’s oldest living World War II veteran.

The East Austin house has been Overton's home since he built it in 1945, when he returned from war. And though he’s done some upgrades over the years, it was beginning to have some serious issues: broken windows, a failing refrigerator and more.

But then a team of several dozen volunteers came to fix it all.

A year after voters narrowly rejected the proposal, the Austin City Council is once again asking voters to approve tens of millions of dollars for affordable housing.

The City of Austin will host the first of four community information sessions today about this November’s $65 million affordable housing bond.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Oak Hollow is a community of 429 apartments in northwest Austin. It’s operated as affordable housing by a group called American Opportunity for Housing.

Built in 1972, keeping up a property like Oak Hollow can be expensive. The main source of income for American Opportunity for Housing is rent. And as a nonprofit, the community has a 100 percent tax exemption. The City of Austin estimates, over the last decade, that it has foregone upwards of $1 million in taxes from Oak Hollow.

But it’s a property with a reputation among renters’ advocates.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Austin voters will likely be asked to approve bond dollars for affordable housing, after a similar proposition was voted down in last November.

On Monday, city council members Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman and Chris Riley, along with housing advocates from Keep Austin Affordable, announced their support for a $65 million bond program on the November 2013 ballot. They said the spending could finance more affordable housing – without raising the tax rate.

Luke Quinton, KUT News

Is Austin's "brand" being diluted? 

The Austin Chamber of Commerce had a round-table discussion today that asked exactly that. The consensus was upbeat, but Jack McDonald, CEO of Silverback Enterprise Group, said a lack of affordable housing will be a more serious concern this decade ahead.

Last week KUT News spent some time looking at affordable housing in Austin in "Under One Roof: Affordable Housing 101." We got into the nuts and bolts of how nonprofit developers build affordable housing for low-income Austinites and why it’s in such short supply.

We heard from quite a few people about this series and about some of the other issues around affordable housing as well.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

For many, Election Night 2012 was a great night.

At the Driskill Hotel, Travis County Democrats toasted President Obama’s victory. But Walter Moreau with Foundation Communities, one of Austin’s largest affordable-housing providers, wasn’t celebrating.

“All the other bonds passed, so it’s hard to say why …” Moreau began.

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Real estate finance under any circumstances is complicated. When it comes to affordable housing, it’s even more so.

So to make this as simple as we can, we’re going to use Austin’s M Station as an example. The 150-unit apartment complex is right next to the Red Line tracks on MLK Boulevard.

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.

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.

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.

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,; 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.