(Un)Affordable Housing

The lack of affordable housing in Austin has become a serious issue. Ten years ago the city of Austin conducted a study of how many affordable housing units are needed and they came up with a need for 40,000 units. Just recently the city revised their study and now 49,000 units are needed. The situation is getting worse. 

The term "Affordable housing" is based on the financial rule of thumb that a family should limit their monthly budget for housing to 30% of their overall income. It doesn't take a math major to figure out that many in Austin are spending too much on housing. Couple that with the fact that the second largest monthly expenditure is transportation and Austin represents a perfect storm of financial burdons. The average Austinite spends $8,500/year/vehicle on transportation. To make housing affordable it must be considered with a reduction in transportation costs and in most cases that means locating affordable housing projects near population density, i.e. the urban core, downtown.

Fortunately there are developers - both public and private - who are creating affordable housing near downtown and outlying areas of density. Foundation Communities is a non-profit organization that initiates about one or two affordable housing developments per year. Each project supplies approximately 120 - 300 housing units. They receive their land through allocations from the city and state and their development money comes from grants and donation.  

Foundation Communities' affordable housing development near the M Station light rail stop

Foundation Communities' affordable housing development near the M Station light rail stop

Michael Casias runs My Brilliant City, a private development company that creates affordable housing based on the market's needs and rates. As their website states, My Brilliant City is "dedicated to building, empowering, and improving community." They work with some of the best architects in the city to come up with unique, progressive designs that are at once affordable, stimulating and something worthy of calling home.

Latest development by My Brilliant City located downtown at 11th Street and San Jacinto, walking distance to the Capitol Complex and States Offices.

Latest development by My Brilliant City located downtown at 11th Street and San Jacinto, walking distance to the Capitol Complex and States Offices.

My Brilliant City created this development on E. 11th Street several years ago.

My Brilliant City created this development on E. 11th Street several years ago.

Here's something to consider (and possibly dispell myths) about affordable housing:

It takes a wage of $16/hr. working at least 40 hours/week to afford to live in Austin

The median household income in Austin is $52,452 (2012 data)

You think affordable housing is for welfare recipients? Consider that the following professions make less than the median income in Austin: Office manager, executive assistant, operations manager and, yes, intern architects.

The average Austin resident should limit their spending to $1311/month on hosuing. Seriously?

Remodeling and Home Design
Austin Architects & Designers