City presents strategic housing plan to help address affordability crisis

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the next two weeks, Austinites will have a chance to weigh in on a draft Strategic Housing Plan. The plan council members are examining now outlines ways to preserve and expand affordable housing. It’s a direct response to a November city audit, which confirmed Austin does not meet affordable housing needs, found there is no timeline for goals and more than half of the units reported as affordable, are not.

Robin Wilkins wishes she could say she’s surprised, standing at the front of her southeast Austin apartment complex. Across the street, new apartments are taking form. Some would call the sights and sounds of construction a sign of growth. But others, like Wilkins, know them as warning signs.

“When I see stuff like this it scares me,” Wilkins said. She and her family were displaced from nearby Lakeview Apartments when they were demolished, and know it could happen again.

“It tells me my rent’s going up,” Wilkins said while ooking across the street from Towne Vista Apartments, on Montopolis Drive. “Because every time construction’s being done or the shovel’s being put into the ground, property value’s going up.”

Neighborhood Housing and Community Development’s (NHCD) housing plan aims to stage an intervention for the city’s out-of-control growth, aligning resources to ensure a unified strategic direction. The plan lays out recommendations for new funding mechanisms, regulatory changes, and other approaches the city and community partners should use to meet affordable and market rate housing goals.

City staff gathered input from people across all 10 council districts before drafting the plan. While a majority of participants agreed affordable housing needs to be distributed throughout the city as evenly as possible and be connected to transit and schools, some were concerned affordable housing units could have a detrimental impacts on the neighborhoods they’re located.

Austin’s population is projected to grow at a rate of nearly 3 percent per year, meaning 400,000 additional people are expected to live in the city by 2045. The draft housing plan projects the need for 75,000 housing units in 10 years, with 35,000 being affordable.

“If we don’t take care of these housing projects and traffic, we’ll get so far behind that it’ll be impossible to get out of it,” Council Member Pio Renteria, who chairs the Housing and Community Development Committee said.

He said council members are asking city management what can be done to fast-track affordable housing developments and looking into community land trusts.

“This where the community owns the land, we build the housing, we sell the housing or we rent it out in an apartment, they don’t have to pay taxes on the land. Which is the most expensive,” Renteria said.

Back in a complex that’s supposed to be affordable, Wilkins says she’s struggling to settle in to a place she can’t let feel like home.

“It’s temporary. I know it’s temporary,” she said. “It’s not affordable if it’s taking your whole paycheck.”

The public is invited to provide written comments on the Draft Strategic Housing Plan. Written comments may be submitted until 5pm on Aug. 8. Please include a name, address, and phone number.

Mail: Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office Attn: Draft Housing Plan P. O. Box 1088 Austin, Texas 78767E-mail: NHCD@austintexas.gov

For more information, NHCD staff may be reached at (512) 974-3100 (voice) Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. TTY users route through Relay Texas at 711.

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