Spencer To Head Neighborhood Housing and Community Development
Last week, City Manager Marc Ott appointed Betsy Spencer to head the city's Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office. The move comes at a time when the city's ambitious affordable and supportive housing policies are coming under closer scrutiny.
Spencer has served as acting director of NHCD since June, when she took over from Margaret Shaw, whom Ott had reassigned to Economic Growth & Redevelopment Services. Spencer "has proven to be a consensus builder who can get things done for low-income Austinites seeking a home and opportunities to better their lives," Ott said in a press release announcing the promotion. "She has helped forge new working relationships that already have proven successful in moving projects forward."
NHCD is the city organization tasked with creating and facilitating affordable, low-income housing and business development, having a hand in projects ranging from Downtown's Austin Resource Center for the Homeless to housing for seniors on fixed incomes. Spencer's appointment comes as the city seeks to drastically step up its commitment to permanent supportive housing for the homeless and housing-unstable; in spring, City Council prioritized remaining affordable-housing bond dollars from 2006 for PSH development, and the city has set a goal of creating 350 PSH units by 2014. However, the push has created push-back, notably among some residents and property owners in East Austin, as the city's plans for 20 PSH units at the Marshall Apartments on East 12th Street have run into complaints that the project may be at odds with the overall redevelopment of the area (see "The 12th of Never," Dec. 17). The city alludes to the controversy in the announcement of Spencer's appointment, writing she "has led the department on major issues involving helping low-income families find housing as well as a new direction in working relationships for redevelopment of the 11th and 12th Street Corridor."