Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

City to develop new affordable housing project in District 9 following million-dollar approval

Naina Srivastava
Mary Lee Square on March 21, 2024.

A new affordable housing development is coming to District 9 after the city approved $50 million in funding late last month for affordable housing developments in six districts.

The Mary Lee Square project was one of nine developments awarded funds as part of the city’s Strategic Housing Blueprint, which aims to create 60,000 affordable housing units for households who earn less than approximately $60,000 a year. The $50 million will allow developments to create over 1,000 new and preserved rental units and 51 ownership units. Construction will begin in 2024.

Jamey May, a housing and community development officer, said providing housing throughout the city has been a “great win.” 

“There’s nothing about an individual’s demographics or income that should restrict them to living in any specific part of town,” May said. 

Russ Walker, executive director of the Mary Lee Foundation, said he saw the potential for Mary Lee from the moment he came onto the property. When completed, the Mary Lee project will have 88 units available for households earning at or below 30% of median family income, 64 units for those below 50% of median family income and 64 units for those at 60% of median family income, according to a press release.

“When you build something new it makes people have hope and it helps validate their own life,” Walker said. “They don’t get the leftovers just because they may not be able to afford to live here in Austin. It’s a beautiful place to live and it adds dignity, it adds purpose to people’s lives.” 

Walker said the affordable housing project aligns with the Mary Lee Foundation’s mission to serve people with diverse needs. The developments will include housing for people with disabilities and help to provide residents with intellectual disability support and rehabilitation services for those with physical impairments, according to the Mary Lee Foundation website.

“I love the idea of a community that’s highly diversified,” Walker said. “A lot of people don’t rub shoulders with people who have disabilities. … We do it already here (but) … it’s smaller. This expands that whole thing Mary Lee has been doing for 61 years.”

May said expanding affordable properties in District 9 is a priority for the city because of the area’s high cost and limited vacant land.

“Finding ways to secure affordability in and around District 9 for the long term, whether it’s by investing in new construction or by acquiring existing properties … that’s the way that we’re going to make a difference in affordability, particularly for students,” May said.

Namratha Thrikutam, an architecture junior and co-founder of the University Tenants’ Union, said the city still has a way to go with affordable housing in District 9, specifically around West Campus. 

“We’ve built so many of these giant, market-rate student housing complexes, and they’re just too expensive for people to afford,” Thrikutam said. “I hope that (housing) prices are going to go down and, again, that’s what we formed this union for is to work with the city council, with the University, and see where we can advocate for ourselves and really try to make these changes.”

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