It has been an incredible year for HousingWorks! With 2015 coming to a close, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on some of our affordability successes over the past 12 months.
WE AFFECTED PUBLIC POLICY
Homestead Preservation Districts In May, City Council began the process of considering adopting three new Homestead Preservation Districts (HPD’s) and creating the
Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) in the original (already adopted) HPD. [See HousingWorks’ Homestead Preservation Districts Overview]. At their last meeting of the year, City Council could finally adopt all three remaining districts and create the first HPD TIRZ. HousingWorks Austin addressed this issue in May 2015 in this letter to Council and continues to advocate for Homestead Preservation Districts as a strategic tool to combat gentrification in the City of Austin.
PUD Density Bonus In October, City Council voted to limit fee-in-lieu options for
Planned Unit Developments (PUD’s), thereby paving the way for increased on-site affordable housing. Prior to the vote, HousingWorks Austin wrote a letter of support for this change. We have long advocated for changes to the density bonus policy in order to ensure greater dispersion of affordable housing throughout the city. The City’s most recent Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice identified barriers to fair housing choice, including the City’s policy of giving developers the option to pay a fee instead of building onsite affordable housing.
Tenant Displacement and Relocation With support from HousingWorks expressed in this letter, City Council directed staff to establish tenant relocation assistance requirements
for developers demolishing or substantially rehabilitating multifamily properties that would result in displacement of low-income tenants. The resolution passed in early November, and staff is preparing for both public meetings and a public hearing at Planning Commission in the first half of 2016 before the recommendations are finalized.
Accessory Dwelling Units In November, City Council passed an
ordinance relaxing the regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) and expanding the geographic area in which they are allowed. Recommended as part of the May 2015 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, this change in policy paves the way for more housing types (potentially at a range of price points) throughout the city of Austin. Earlier in the year, HousingWorks Austin recommended changes to ADU regulations in this letter, coupled with additional tools (such as below-market financing and pre-approved plans) to achieve greater affordability at a variety of income levels.
Housing Trust Fund At their final meeting of the year, City Council will consider amending the long-standing policy of dedicating 40% of increased property tax revenue from City-owned property to affordable housing. The proposal recommended by the Housing and Community Development Committee increases the 40% increment to 100%, with 40% going toward affordable housing throughout the city, 40% going toward affordable housing in the Homestead Preservation Districts, and 20% going toward affordable housing in high opportunity areas. This change would go a long way toward achieving both a sustainable and a substantial revenue stream for affordable housing.
WE BUILT COALITIONS
Keep Austin Affordable Initiative
Building on the success of the 2013 affordable housing bond campaign, in 2015 Keep Austin Affordable became an educational initiative of HousingWorks Austin! Through stories and videos shared via our newsletter, social media and website, we are emphasizing the human benefit of the fight for affordable housing. Visit our Keep Austin Affordable page to view these stories. We encourage everyone to share them through their individual and professional networks. We know that affordability strengthens our families and communities, and together we will succeed!
Austin Community Investment Collaborative
The Austin Community Investment Collaborative (“the Collaborative”), managed by HousingWorks,is a partnership of public, private and nonprofit organizations committed to investing in complete communities that link affordable housing to better opportunities, healthier environments, increased mobility and a higher quality of life for all Austinites.
Recognizing that housing is the linchpin for affordability, and that Austin currently needs more than 48,000 housing units for low-income households, the Collaborative is spearheading policy and investment strategies to achieve large scale outcomes. Look for more exciting updates in early 2016!
WE HOSTED INFORMATIVE EVENTS
Creating Healthy Communities
In March 2015, HousingWorks brought together approximately 50 leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors in Austin for a full-day workshop to develop approaches for implementing Imagine Austin with a particular focus on local affordability and connectivity. The workshop helped our community assess local capital investment capacity, identify investment priorities and gaps, and develop a set of actions to strengthen the regional community investment ecosystem. The Austin Community Investment Collaborative is a direct result of the Creating Healthy Communities workshop. A summary of the workshop discussion and recommendations can be found here.
Missing Middle TAP
HousingWorks Austin and the Urban Land Institute Austin hosted a Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) in April 2015 to explore strategies to develop, finance, and market housing that is affordable to middle income families. While many people think of “missing middle” as a product type (e.g. duplexes, triplexes, condos, etc.), we challenged our panelists to think about “missing middle” as housing that actual serves middle income households and families.
Our panel of experts included nonprofit and for-profit developers, as well as Abe Farkas with ECONorthwest (the affordability sub consultant on CodeNEXT). In preparation for the daylong TAP, panelists spent an intensive day digging into demographics, housing trends and land development code challenges. We wrapped up our presentations with a two-hour tour of missing middle housing product along the Burnet and N. Lamar corridors, as well as the North Loop and Mueller neighborhoods. To view the final report and recommendations, click here.
HousingWorks provided tours of affordable housing for a wide range of leadership groups in 2015. This year’s tour groups included the Austin City Council, the Georgetown Housing Advisory Board, and the Greenville, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. In October, we held our annual Leadership Tour of Affordable Homes, which drew approximately 50 professionals from the real estate and business community. During our two hours together, we explored new and affordable development south of the river and focused on public financing (including general obligation bonds), public-private partnerships, and preservation of existing housing stock.
WE MADE THE NEWS
HousingWorks’ September 2015 District Analyses of Affordable Housing made a splash: Click the logos to view stories.
We also brought attention to a disturbing rise in homeless AISD students.
WE SEE PROGRESS WITH NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING ALL OVER THE CITY
This is an incredibly exciting time. The number of groundbreakings and grand openings of affordable housing in Austin is unprecedented. This speaks to both the community’s enormous need and our local commitment to affordability. Here is a sampling of affordable housing (more than 1,200 new units!) coming online in 2016:
We’re making progress, and we couldn’t do it without you! To help us continue our important work in 2016 (and beyond), please consider an end-of-the-year tax-deductible donation:
Thank you for your commitment to affordability!
Mandy De Mayo