Affordable Housing in Austin

Over the past three weeks, Garrett and I have been conducting research in the Affordable Housing sector of Austin. We decided to pursue this topic for our full 24 weeks project. We both have a ties to the housing and development industry in Austin, and each of us are drawn to the chaos and complexities of Austin’s housing market.

Thus far, we’ve spoken with two individuals who are living in Affordable Housing, one individuals who is a caseworker and one Executive Director who runs an Affordable Housing nonprofit. It feels like a well rounded group. The users give a first hand experience of what its like to search and find Affordable Housing. The casework explained their understanding of the systems of housing in Austin, ranging from the vouchers they can use to the money the City of Austin gives them for their work. Finally the Executive Director had explained his organization’s service, legislation around the Community Land Trust method, and has reached out to his residents to see if families are open to being interviewed.

In gathering all of these experiences and expertise we’ve come to find that Affordable Housing in Austin is a many faceted space. There are innumerable players, guidelines and rules. The key players include: all levels of government, commercial and nonprofit developers, landlords, neighbors, nonprofits, mortgage banks, real estate agents, caseworkers, and finally the users themselves.

Guidelines and rules mostly seem to be decreed by the government. The City of Austin plays a key role in where development happens through zoning regulations. The city also owns a number of plots in and around Austin that have been sold and later used for Affordable Housing. Finally, they also give a certain dollar amount to different nonprofits to help get individuals housed.

Its odd to see just how diverse a role of  the government plays in the housing sector. I never expected their role to be so dual; they can give land to organization and they have the ability to determine how that land is used. The most astonishing part is that if a neighborhood doesn’t want affordable housing in their neighborhood, then the government can essentially shut down a development project on behalf of the neighborhood if needed. Learning all of this has just made me realize we need to speak with someone from the city to see how they navigate this role.

As we continue into this space I feel like we have a relatively good handle on the players and space of Affordable Housing. I think we need to start keeping track of all the acronyms we hear and what they stand for, so all can reference it when needed. I also want to challenge myself to create an artifact that displays all the roles and relationships that are established in the Affordable Housing sector. I image it would be helpful when explaining the role of each entity. I’d like to have a draft of this by next week.