From left, Heather Donahue, Jeremy Striffler, Hannah Rangel and moderator Stacy Armijo discussed affordable housing solutions in downtown Austin, Austin ISD and the surrounding communities during the Central Texas Affordability Summit. (Brittany Anderson/Community Impact)

Community Impact Austin shares, "Area leaders are continuing to look for creative ways to increase housing supply and create sustainable housing options in Austin, such as changing development codes and spearheading efforts to grow the local workforce.

Amplify Credit Union hosted its second annual Central Texas Affordability Summit on May 23 with Amplify members; Mayor Kirk Watson; and a panel featuring Heather Donahue of MOD Architecture and Design; Jeremy Striffler, director of real estate and asset management at Austin ISD; and Hannah Rangel of the Downtown Austin Alliance.

The gist

Watson said the city has undertaken a number of initiatives to address its housing supply and affordability. In December, City Council approved the first phase of the Home Options for Middle-income Empowerment initiative, which allows for more units to be constructed on single-family properties.

More recently, council members approved the second phase of the initiative, which reduces minimum lot sizes by more than two-thirds.

Watson added that the city has cleaned up its permitting process—expediting initial site plan reviews from over 90 days to under 30 days and re-reviews from 60 days to 14—and that in the last year, its supply of supportive housing has increased by 300%.

The city’s workforce and economic development sector also ties into housing affordability and supply, Watson said, noting the recent creation of the Austin Infrastructure Academy that will train thousands of Central Texans ahead of “about $25 billion worth of infrastructure projects.”

“We're going to need to cultivate about 4,000 more people per year to what might naturally happen in order to be able to get that done,” Watson said. “The Austin Infrastructure Academy is going to focus on—I can see us doing it as early as eighth or ninth grade—getting people on career paths; young people who otherwise might have to leave Austin because Austin doesn't have anything, [to] show them that we do.”

What else?

In Austin ISD, Striffler said as school funding models have not changed, AISD is “being forced to think differently” about recruiting and retaining teachers in a city with a rising cost of living.

The district is repurposing the 18-acre Anita Ferrales Coy Facility, which houses its alternative learning center, with over 500 housing units. The move is in line with other area school districts, such as Lake Travis ISD, where the board of trustees recently approved the creation of a Public Facility Corporation to offer affordable housing options for teachers.

Creative solutions like this are expanding outside of Austin. Donahue said Round Rock’s first tiny home community was established in 2023 featuring affordable units that focus on moving in teachers, first responders, blue-collar workers and students.

Rangel added that there is often conversation about converting vacant downtown commercial and office units into residential units to address shortages, but it’s “not a good fit” for a city like Austin.

“When we're talking about some of those vacancies in office buildings, these are big, new towers that still have a lot of debt and equity attached to it,” Rangel said. “... There's a lot of reasons why those individual buildings become less and less desirable. So I'll never say no to a good idea; I would love to see a new conversion project or townhome, ... [but] I’m finding that [is] the conversation, and we are putting a lot of energy into that discussion.”"

Source: Community Impact

Written by: Brittany Anderson

Published: May 24, 2024

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


Email Send a link to post via Email

Leave A Comment

Please note that your email address is kept private upon posting.