AUSTIN (KXAN) — Of the record $350 million dollars you voted to put towards affordable housing in 2022, Austin City Council has signed off on $45 million of it to be used this fiscal year. Many of those projects are on council agendas already.
On Thursday, eight projects were taken up during the Austin Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) meeting that will be partially funded by 2022 bond dollars, including $1.5 million for improvements at the AHA! at Briarwood and more than $6 million for development of Cairn Point, which will be a 150 unit complex in north Austin.
In all, council approved more than $20 million in 2022 bond money Thursday.
“The money comes to us at different stages. They [city staff] don’t give us all projects at once. What they’ll do is they’ll say ‘here’s a piece of it and here’s what we plan doing with it.’ And then maybe a few months later or a year later they’ll say ‘here’s the next batch,'” Council Member Ryan Alter explained.
Next week, council will also talk about spending roughly $13 million in 2022 bond dollars for a future property called Seabrook Square. That project will cost tens of thousands of dollars and is expected to provide more than 200 units in a multi-structure complex near Mueller on Manor Road.
That now-vacant property is owned by the City of Austin, and according to Josh Rudow, a program manager with the housing department, the city will ultimately get money back.
Meanwhile, the bond projects approved Thursday will all go towards “gap funding” major affordable housing developments. That means the money won’t be the only source of funding for a project but will help get developers over the budget finish line. Rudow says it’s the best way for the city to get as many units on the ground as quickly as possible.
“There are so many ways that we just keep trying to squeeze these projects so they’re less expensive,” Rudow said. “We’re really leveraging taxpayer dollars in a way that I think is extraordinary.”
Many of the funds approved are also loans and will come back to the city over the next few decades to be put back into affordable housing projects, Rudow explained.
All the future projects put before council set aside units for people in the lowest median family income level, something Mayor Kirk Watson told us was a priority for him during an affordability summit last month.
As the city moves forward with the more than $300 million it has left, Alter hopes staff will focus on parts of Austin that are historically less affordable, specifically west of I-35.
Rudow said spreading that funding out is a priority for city staff too, but that they are also working to make sure the people being disproportionately displaced in east Austin have places to go near the community they’ve built. He also noted factors like zoning and availability make finding affordable housing in west Austin more difficult.
“We are often looking at projects on the west side. We have some city-owned land that we’re trying to use as well,” Rudow said. “Other teams are trying to acquire land and buy land that we can turn into affordable housing.”