City Needs to Get Serious About Affordable Housing

RECEIVED Tue., April 3, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Part of what makes Austin so wonderful is the diversity of the community and the degree to which so many in Austin care about the future of this city.
    One increasingly vocal cry from many in the community surrounds the lack of affordable housing Downtown. The March 23 article “We Were the Urban Pioneers” [News] by Wells Dunbar and Jordan Smith highlights the scarcity of affordable housing in many of the buildings under construction Downtown.
    A primary goal of Andrews Urban is to bring housing to a broader range of income earners. At 360 Condominiums, where our homes start at $190,000, our future residents include a number of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and a librarian. Many rightfully say that $190,000 is out of reach for a large percentage of the workforce and also for many of the artists and musicians who help make Austin such a vibrant and alluring city. They, too, should be able to live in our urban core.
    We know that for even the smallest home in a Downtown high-rise, the cost to construct a unit far exceeds $190,000, and no one is in the business of development to sell square footage at or below the cost to build it. So what’s the solution?
    Those who take seriously the matter of affordability should read the Affordable Housing Incentives Task Force report issued in February 2007 and let your opinion be known at the upcoming meetings of the Community Development Commission on April 10 and at City Council on April 19.
    For high-rises in the Central Business District, the cost to build affordable housing would be offset by waivers or reimbursements of development fees by the city. Last year the voters of Austin passed $55 million in bond money for affordable housing. This public contribution in the form of bond proceeds could offset the fee revenue forgone by the city so that affordable housing becomes both a public and private responsibility.
    As Austin adds hundreds of thousands of residents over the coming decades, most of us recognize the importance of focusing development in Downtown instead of over Edward’s Aquifer. To maintain Austin’s uniqueness and its celebration of diversity, let’s come together to find a solution for affordability in Downtown.
Taylor Andrews
Andrews Urban LLC
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