The Develop and Maintain Household Affordability Throughout Austin Priority Program takes a comprehensive approach to defining and providing household affordability for Austinites. This priority program considers not only household costs such as mortgage, rent, and utilities but also transportation and access to daily and weekly needs as essential and interrelated components of holistic affordability.
Departments: Neighborhood Housing & Community Development, Planning and Zoning, Economic Development, Austin Public Health, Austin Code, Development Services, Economic Development, Austin Transportation, Austin Energy
The Affordability Unlocked development bonus program was unanimously approved by City Council in May 2019. The program offers affordable housing developers access to a wide range of development bonuses that will enable them to build more housing units in their developments. In exchange for setting aside at least half of the units in a development as affordable, developers can use a variety of development bonuses, including: density, height, and parking modifications, and waivers of certain compatibility and occupancy limit restrictions. The program supports several strategies in the Strategic Housing Blueprint and will help the City better leverage public subsidies, like the 2018 Affordable Housing Bond, to produce more units in affordable housing developments.
2018 Affordable Housing Bonds and Adoption of Geographic Affordable Housing Goals
In November 2018, Austin voters approved $250 million in general obligation bonds for affordable housing. $100 million will be for land acquisition, $94 million for rental housing development assistance, $28 million for ownership housing development assistance and $28 million for home repair. This funding will help Austin create, rehabilitate, and retain affordable rental and ownership housing throughout Austin as articulated in Imagine Austin.
In June 2019, Council adopted geographically derived affordable housing goals for council districts and the 2016 Mobility Bond Corridors. Approval of these two recommendations refines the affordable housing goals included in the Strategic Housing Blueprint. Geographic goals will guide policy priorities and inform the structure of our affordable housing programs funded by the 2018 Affordable Housing Bonds. These affordable housing goals will also require partnerships to realize the vision not only stated in the Blueprint, but echoed in Imagine Austin as well as the Strategic Direction 2023.
Learn more at austintexas.gov/housingblueprint
Tackling Issues of Displacement and Gentrification
Displacement and gentrification are significant community challenges identified during the development of the Strategic Housing Blueprint, but several community reports were published after its adoption: The University of Texas Gentrification Study (56 actions), People's Plan (19 actions), Mayor's Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities (40 housing-related actions), Fair Housing Action Plan (2019) (32 actions) and Anti-Displacement Taskforce (107 actions).
As a result, the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department worked closely with the Innovation Office’s i-Team to synthesize these recommendations into a Displacement Mitigation Strategy, which was presented to Council’s Housing and Planning Committee in February 2019. The strategy includes policy and procedural changes, new outreach to connect eligible community members with services, and new/expanded programs and services. Some of the actions are underway or complete, such as the creation of a tax increment financing (TIF) district for Homestead Preservation District A. The TIF district will capture a portion of the property tax revenue generated by rising property values within the district and reinvest it in affordable housing. Over the 10-year life of the TIF district, it is estimated to capture nearly $22 million for affordable housing.
Watch the video from the speaker series event featuring the author's of a year-long gentrification study in Austin
Rapidly Escalating Home Prices and Rents
Higher home prices and rents mean there is a greater difference between market value and an affordable home price and rent for low- to moderate-income households. Put another way, wages are not keeping pace with rapidly increasing home prices and rents.
There are two main ways new affordable housing is created: through a subsidy (buying down the price or rent of the unit) or through an incentive (relaxing regulations or offering other incentives to builders or landlords). As prices rise, so does the cost of providing either a subsidy or an incentive, which consumes more of the limited resources the City has to create as many affordable housing units as possible each year. It is important that the City continues to find ways to leverage resources and make dollars stretch even further to meet a variety of community goals as articulated in Imagine Austin and the Strategic Housing Blueprint.
The Austin City Council identified homelessness as the top priority indicator in Austin’s Strategic Direction 2023 and through support of the Austin Action Plan to End Homelessness. Additionally, the City Council adopted Resolution 20190620-184 directing the City Manager to explore a variety of options to address homelessness. The City has hired a Homeless Strategy Officer to focus on homelessness across the city.
Additionally, the City’s Office of Innovation’s i-team has worked with individuals and partners across the City of Austin to understand homelessness in Austin from the perspective of people living those experiences. The team has also examined some of the public and non-profit response systems that are addressing this growing crisis.
“Housing First” pathways to provide permanent housing opportunities and connect individuals and families to resources to help stabilize them once they are housed is one of the most effective strategies to reduce homelessness; however, sufficient funding is not available to meet the need. There remain opportunities to better coordinate between all organizations providing services to the homeless community as well as with other community organizations to maximize the efficacy of limited resources.