A look at affordable housing projects

Of the $250 million affordable housing bond that we approved in November, $94 million is used to fund income-restricted rental units. Any developer can apply for those funds. Some of the projects will be a mix of market-rate and affordable units (the city funds can only fund the latter). Other projects are done by developers that focus exclusively on affordable housing.

Staff from the Neighborhood Housing & Community Development department provided an update earlier this week on the applications they’ve received in the past quarter. There were 17 applications just in that three-month period, which is about twice as many as the city typically receives in a year.

Here’s a map of the projects applying, most of which probably won’t get picked.

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Only one or two of these projects is located in what would traditionally be viewed as a “high-opportunity” area. That generally means an area with high(er) incomes that is close to jobs, amenities and good schools. But in light of changes in the real estate market, it’s worth rethinking those definitions.

Notably, a number of projects on the near-east side, for instance, are providing affordable housing in an area where market rates have exploded due to gentrification. They are also very close to transit and downtown.

There’s a big range of projects targeting different household sizes, different income levels. And of course, some projects are much bigger than others. Housing bond dollars can only be used for units for those at or below 50% area median family income ($30k/single, $34k/2 person, $43k/family of four). But some of the projects are drawing other funding sources (notably Low Income Housing Tax Credits) to provide income-restricted units at higher levels and some projects include some market-rate units, which help pay for the affordable ones.

For instance, on E. Oltorf, Saigebrook Development, a for-profit affordable housing builder, is planning a 190-unit project. Fifteen of those units will have no income restrictions, while 123 will be at 60% AMI (financed by tax credits, no bond funding) and 52 will be at 50% AMI. Among the income-restricted units, 43 will be 1BR, 81 will be 2BR and 51 will be 3BR.

Similarly, at Lakeline Station, Foundation Communities, the nonprofit developers, wants to build 13 units at 30% AMI and 56 units at 50% AMI. Of those 69 units, 21 will be 3-bedroom, 34 will be 2-bedroom and 14 will be 1-bedroom. Those units are part of a bigger development that includes another 51 units at 60% AMI.

Meanwhile, some projects almost exclusively target smaller households. Burnet Place Apartments, for example, is seeking funding for 55 studio apartments, 33 of which would be at 50% AMI, 11 at 40% AMI and 11 at 30% AMI, which amounts to $18k for a single person and $25.8k for a family of four. Similarly, of the 62 units Travis Flats is seeking bond funding for, only 11 will be 2BR and one will be 3BR. The rest will be studios or 1-BR.

Some projects are really, really small. Blackshear Community Development Corporation wants money to build two units –– one 2-bedroom & one 3-bedroom –– at 50% AMI on a single-family lot in the Rosewood neighborhood. At 6711 Porter, Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp wants money to build a single 1BR garage apartment at 30% AMI.

How does the city decide which projects are most worthy of its support? It’s a complicated scoring process that takes into account a number of city goals. The goal to build as much affordable housing as possible is balanced against our desire to facilitate economic integration by placing affordable units in affluent areas that are otherwise off-limits to the poor. Similarly, we want housing to be near transit or within walking distance of critical services, schools, grocery stores. Finally, we want housing that serves different types of households, including families with children.

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