AUSTIN (KXAN) — Affordability. It’s become a major concern in Austin, with many left wondering what it really means and how to achieve it. City leaders are now looking to create a program that helps middle income families purchase a home and keep their homes.

“It’s very challenging because there just doesn’t seem to be any assistance out there for people like me, who make money above a certain level but are still very much in need and working very hard to try to get ahead and achieve the American dream,” single parent Lisa Pittman said.

She bought her first home two years ago, in what she says used to be an affordable pocket just outside the city limits. It’s a place in Travis County where her children can still attend Eanes ISD.

“I realized I need to go ahead and buy a house to avoid getting priced out of the market and unable to even hope to live here,” Pittman said. “Every month, for me, it’s a struggle and a worry. Will I bring in enough to pay the mortgage?”

Council Member Delia Garza is sponsoring the resolution to create a housing lending advisory group.

“A lot of times when we hear about affordable housing we hear about affordable housing that is subsidized,” Garza said.

The proposed program, for example, would help a family of four earning more than $62,000 a year and less than $93,000.

“They still don’t make enough money to be able to buy a home in Austin when the average home is $280,000,” Garza said, adding it was closer to $289,000 this month.

There is no intention of using local taxpayer dollars to fund the program. Instead, one idea Garza mentioned to KXAN is to partner with a lending institution. She said there may be federal programs that could also provide assistance. The advisory group would be asked to develop recommendations to provide new lending tools for current and new homeowners, target households with incomes between 80-120 percent median family income (MFI) and target a diversity of housing types.

“I’m not suggesting that this be subsidized by the city of Austin,” Garza said. “It’s simply that we can use our influence as the city of Austin and go to a lending institution and say look, this is important to us, can you help us? Can you help us figure out programs, can you help us partner with other people that are interested in something like this?”

A city memo from Neighborhood Housing and Community Development in August recommended potential strategies in addition to the advisory group to maintain affordability for existing homeowners in Austin.

Some of those recommendations include:

  • Allow owners to convert existing interior residential space into a rentable apartment to help pay mortgage/taxes
  • Support increased wages for low-income Austinites
  • Distribute housing and jobs throughout Austin to lessen the pressure on prices in central Austin
  • Dis-incentivize the construction of new big, expensive houses

Council will vote on whether to create a housing lending advisory group during Thursday’s city council meeting. If approved, the council is asking for preliminary recommendations with identified next steps in December.