Construction on new affordable housing units begins in East Austin


Nathan Goldsmith

Officials from the Austin City Council, City Manager’s office, and office of Neighborhood Housing and Development, along with members of the Anderson Community Development Corporation participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for affordable housing units on East 12th Street Wednesday afternoon. The $2.8 million project will provide energy efficient housing for low income families.

Miles Hutson

East Austin will be getting 24 energy-efficient affordable housing units in 2014 after the city broke ground on the construction site Wednesday.

Located a short distance from downtown on East 12th Street, the development will be available for households earning 50 percent or less of the federal government-defined median family income — the equivalent of $36,600 or less annually for a family of four. The project is estimated to cost $2.8 million.

“Affordable housing is something the city of Austin has made a commitment to,” Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said. 

Anthony Snipes, Austin’s acting assistant city manager, said it was important that Austin’s growth not come at a price to poor communities. 

“As we continue to become a prosperous city, it’s important that those with less fortune have the ability to remain,” Snipes said. “The good thing about these units is that we not only have 24 quality units being built, but they’re also going to be energy-efficient. With lots of low-income housing, you don’t always have that benefit and the utilities tend to be high.”

Cole said that without continued construction of affordable housing, Austin will not be able to meet growing demand. The city estimates there is already a need for 39,000 affordable units for low-income residents.

Members of the Anderson Community Development Corporation said the East Austin development will not be able to serve all of its applicants. The development corporation is a nonprofit cooperating with the city’s affordable housing projects.

“There’s certainly a deep need,” Jim Rath of Anderson CDC said. “Not only will we be able to fill these 24 units, but we’ll have a waiting list.” 

This high demand, he said, necessitates more
affordable housing. 

Cole said the growth of affordable housing from the city will have to slow down without the approval of bonds for construction by voters.

The housing development was funded by the HOME Investment Partnerships program, a federal program which provides funds for a variety of housing projects for low-income families. 

Snipes said the rejection of affordable housing bonds in last year’s November elections was disappointing to him. However, he had hope voters would approve them this November, when Austin City Council members plan to bring them up for a vote again.

“Maybe it was lost in the mix [last election],” Snipes said. “Getting those dollars allows us to ensure that Austin isn’t known as an elite community, but a community for all.”

Printed on Thursday, January 17, 2013 as: Energy-efficient housing arrives