Solving The Austin Affordability Crisis
It’s no secret that Austin is in the midst of an affordability crisis for low-income to moderate-income families. While most people are aware of the challenges we face as a city, Austin leaders have had trouble finding solutions that will appease this problem any time soon.
Traditionally, a balanced housing market has 6 months of inventory; currently, the City of Austin has 2.3 months of inventory available, which has led to an average median home price of $341,000. Yeah - not exactly affordable for the Average Joe!
However, a recent affordability seminar led by the Austin Alliance for Economic Inclusion offered up some insight into what local organizations and the City of Austin are doing to alleviate affordability problems in the near future, as well as resources that can help families looking to buy now.
HousingWorks is a local nonprofit that aims to increase the supply of affordable housing in Austin by providing education, advocacy, and housing policy recommendations. The nonprofit has come up with a 5-step plan to keep Austin affordable:
1. Preserve the current housing
The City of Austin is home to 18,500 subsidized housing units. But there are more than 65,000 unsubsidized housing units that are currently providing below market rent. We need to preserve affordable housing — both subsidized and unsubsidized — so that we have sufficient affordable housing stock today and into the future.
2. Invest & Expand
In 2013, voters overwhelmingly approved $65 million in affordable housing bonds. These local dollars are critical to increasing affordable housing stock. With the $55 million 2006 housing bonds, we were able to create or preserve more than 3,400 affordable homes. We need to continue and expand the wise investments that our community makes into affordability.
3. Leverage Investments
Every dollar from the 2006 affordable housing bonds was leveraged with an additional four dollars in outside funds. The local economic impact of the 2006 housing bonds will be $865+ million over the next 10 years. It’s a great return on investment. We need to stretch our scarce housing dollars by continuing our impressive record on leveraging.
4. Foster Partnerships
When we build schools, designate transit-oriented districts, offer economic incentives to private companies, we need to ensure that affordable housing is part of the equation.
5. Include Everyone
The Land Development Code rewrite — CodeNEXT — is our opportunity to shape what gets built, where it gets built, and how it gets built. HousingWorks recognizes that well-located density, streamlined development reviews, and a simple and predictable development process will increase affordability in a broad sense. But in order to achieve true affordability, it is imperative that onsite, inclusionary affordable housing policies are implemented across the city and in a range of housing types.
What exactly is CodeNEXT?
CodeNEXT is a City of Austin initiative to revise the Land Development Code, which determines how land can be used throughout the city – including what can be built, where it can be built, and how much can (and cannot) be built.
Our existing Land Development Code was written nearly 30 years ago when Austin's population was half the size it is now, and it has become overly complex after being amended hundreds of times over the years to accommodate unforeseen issues. The Code needs to be changed to help us create the kinds of places we want, as identified in Imagine Austin, and to address critical issues such as diminishing natural resources, household affordability, and access to healthy lifestyles – to name a few.
The Code will play an important role in guiding the future growth of the city. The opportunity to update our Land Development Code means more than making it simpler to use and understand; it means creating a framework to help improve our quality of life.
What are resources to use in the meantime?
Down Payment Assistance Programs
These programs can help the home-buying process a lot easier by reducing or eliminating down payments when closing on a home. There are several available to choose from, each with different interest rate options and assistance levels. Check out the links below to see which program might be the best fit for you, or give John Schutze a call at (512) 524-8310 to learn more.
Other Resources & Education Classes for Homebuyers:
Frameworks Community Development
Frameworks Community Development acquires bank owned foreclosed homes, rehabilitating the homes, and making them available to families for affordable homeownership or rental housing.
Frameworks also offers home buyer education and counseling, which helps families understand the home-buying process and how they can attain home ownership. 75% of homebuyers say they find the process complicated, creating a need for more education classes and resources.
In addition, they also offer Financial Literacy Education programs to allow families and individuals to gain control of their resources, manage credit, and address debt issues.
You can call Frameworks at 512-385-1500 for more information. Frameworks offers their homebuyer education classes the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Saturdays of every month. Classes in English are held on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month from 8am-4pm. Spanish speakers can attend the 3rd Saturday for a class in Spanish from 8am-5pm. Classes are FREE!
Habla espanol? Usted asiste a la clase de educación en el tercer sábado de cada mes!
Business & Community Leaders of Texas (BCL of Texas)
Business & Community Lenders of Texas is a nonprofit economic development organization providing business lending, SBA and community development programs.
-NeighborhoodLIFT for Greater Austin, which can provide down payment assistance funds.
If you have questions about any of the above services or would like more information on down payment assistance programs, please email John or give our office a call at (512) 524-8310. We'd be happy to help!