AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is moving forward with a stalled pilot program that’s set to offer affordable homes to people pushed out of their neighborhoods by gentrification.

The city has been buying and renovating properties as part the Austin Community Land Trust (ACLT).

At Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s Housing and Planning Committee, staff announced a total of 28 homes will be put up for sale over the next year at deeply discounted prices.

Applicants displaced from areas identified as gentrified in a 2018 city-commissioned study will be given priority under what’s known as a “preference policy.”

To qualify, applicants must earn less than 80% of Austin’s median family income ($55,000 per year for individuals, $79,100 for a family of four) and meet other requirements.

Those who meet all criteria will have their applications placed into an anonymous lottery. The winner will get to purchase the home.

According to the ACLT website, prices are set to range between $195,900 and $246,300, depending on the number of bedrooms.

For perspective, the first home up for sale, a two-bedroom along Linden Street in east Austin, is surrounded by new houses with market rates above $600,000, according to the Travis County Central Appraisal District.

ACLT home for sale along Linden Street in east Austin (KXAN Photo/Daniel Marin)
ACLT home for sale along Linden Street in east Austin (KXAN Photo/Daniel Marin)

To keep the price low, ACLT will sell only the house and lease the land to the homeowner. City officials said because of this, there will be rules in place when it comes to any future resale of the home.

City council member Kathie Tovo, who has spearheaded the initiative, said cities like Portland have similar preference policies in place.

“It’s just about making sure those residents who either been forced out of Austin by the high costs or are at risk of being forced out have an opportunity to stay in the community,” Tovo told KXAN on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the city’s Planning and Housing Department said the policy was set to take effect in 2019 but had to be delayed due to staffing issues tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We should take the time to celebrate the overdue introduction of this preference policy, but we also need to be clear that this is just one of the many, many, many tools we’ll need in order to get our affordability crisis under control,” said District 1 council member Natasha Harper-Madison in a statement.

“The housing shortage that’s pushing up prices is much bigger than 28 homes,” the statement read.

“It’s obviously a solution that is not going to reach across all of Austin,” Tovo said. “But we’re absolutely committed to making these types of opportunities and others available.”