Pricey real estate changing way Habitat for Humanity builds in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- As average home prices hit a record high in Austin, a nonprofit known for helping home buyers on a tight budget is finding new ways to operate.

"Land prices in Austin have been going up exponentially," said Gary Anderson, director of operations for Austin Habitat for Humanity.

The median home price in Austin is now $255,000, an increase of 10 percent from the same time last year, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. And because of rising costs, Habitat for Humanity is veering off from their one-story, single-home construction for the first time. In the next few weeks, they will break ground on 11 two-story homes on a piece of land at the corner of Montopolis Drive and Ponca Street in East Austin.

Anderson also showed KXAN another example of how they plan to do more with less at the corner of Comal and Fourth streets on a small piece of property they own right across from their ReStore facility.

"This site right here is a site that can hold 26 homes," said Anderson.

They envision a condo unit with businesses on the ground floor where families who live in the complex can work and run businesses.

"This is pretty much the only way we can build in this kind of area, is through density."

It is prime real estate next to prime transportation, with the MetroRail Plaza Saltillo station within rock-throwing distance. The new project aims to help more families afford to live in a city where the prices seem to continue shooting through the roof.

Families in Habitat homes buy the houses through low-mortgage payment plans. They must also invest hundreds of hours of "sweat equity" helping build homes before they are eligible for their own.

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