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Affordable apartment community approved for East Austin lauded as 'new benchmark'

'It's the first development in Austin to incorporate market-rate, affordable, and homelessness-response housing'

By Mike Christen – Staff Writer, Austin Business Journal

Aug 1, 2022

Seabrook Square will have 262 affordable apartments: a mix of income-restricted units, live-work artists residences, permanent supportive housing and market rate units.

Hundreds of affordable housing units are set to rise in East Austin, and public officials are lauding the project as the first of its kind in the city.

The board of the Austin Housing Finance Corp., which is made up entirely of City Council members, on July 28 approved the negotiation and execution of necessary agreements for the construction of a mixed-use affordable housing development on three acres of city-owned land at 3515 Manor Road. That is just south of the Mueller community.

The project’s approval marks another step in the city’s effort to combat an affordable housing crisis brought about by skyrocketing rents and home prices.

Projected to cost about $13 million, the four-building Seabrook Square will be funded by the city’s $250 million affordable housing bond approved by voters in 2018. It is expected to have 262 units, with the vast majority reserved for households earning at or below 60% of the median family income level, plus community space.

It will be developed by the NHP Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit real estate corporation, and Capital A Housing, an Austin-based affordable housing developer. Formed as part of the Civilitude Group, Capital A Housing was created to contribute to Austin’s strategic housing blueprint. The group represents professionals working in land development including consulting, design, permitting, entitlements, financing and construction, in addition to business consulting and government.

Of the 262 units, 22 will be reserved for residents earning at or below 30% of MFI, 76 for those at 50% MFI and 86 for residents at 60% MFI. Ten live-work artist residences will also be included, between the 50% and 60% MFI units.

This year, the median family income level for a family of three in Travis County is $99,250. For the same size family, 60% MFI is $59,580.

In total, 102 of the income-restricted units will be multi-bedroom for families.

The project also consists of 60 permanent supportive housing units, an evidence-based type of affordable housing for the homeless that includes support services such as case management, mental health care, wellness services, employment services and connection to other community resources. Residents in those 60 units will also have direct access to a holistic supportive community space designed with healing in mind.

Integral Care will provide furniture and basic move-in items for all residents, including bedding and kitchenware. There will be two nearby clinics and an onsite food pantry in collaboration with Central Texas Food Bank.

The project also includes 18 market-rate units. Seabrook Square is set to become the first development in Austin with market-rate units, income-restricted units and permanent supportive housing integrated in one community.

"We think this project sets an important new benchmark for projects on city land. It's the first development in Austin to incorporate market-rate, affordable, and homelessness-response housing," stated Conor Kenny, director of public affairs at Capital A Housing. "And because we very deliberately brought in Black-led organizations to perform our marketing and outreach, we think this will be both the most economically integrated and racially integrated development in Austin."

The development team is looking for a single general contractor to oversee the project, though it is prepared to consider multiple builders, representatives of Capital A Housing said.

The project will also include a community arts hub centered on Black-led East Austin nonprofits and small businesses. The development's ground floor will feature an art cafe where artists can sell their pieces, along with a community hall and a business center.

"It is a true mixed-income development, with homes for Austinites of all incomes. From those exiting homelessness to market-rate apartments; with an emphasis on low-income affordable units and multi-bedroom family-friendly units," stated Fayez Kazi, CEO of Civilitude Group. "We are grateful that City Council has supported Capital A Housing's approach of mixed-income housing. This proposal is a crucial first step in reaching the community's goal of having 2,100 permanent supportive housing units by 2025 and overall, more affordable housing for everyone in Austin."

Located in central East Austin, the property consists of four parcels and two vacant commercial buildings totaling roughly 4,000 square feet. The parcels are currently owned by the city of Austin and the AHFC, with all parcels anticipated to eventually be conveyed to the AHFC.

"Housing is the foundation we all need to do well physically, emotionally, socially, and financially," stated David Evans, CEO of Integral Care. "When Austinites have tools like a home to regain health and stability, primary and mental health care to support physical and emotional health, and job opportunities to reach our full potential, our city is stronger and everyone thrives."

City Council members said the project represents the government's ability to successfully manage borrowed funds as a new $350 million affordable housing bond goes up for voter approval.

"We have an opportunity to do something which is really challenging to do in the private sector," said Kathie Tovo, who represents District 9 on Council. "We can get such value for Austinites. ... I think it is going to be a great amenity and a good resource for the city."

Capital A Housing recently completed A at Lamppost, a community of affordable townhomes with units priced at $250,000.

The project at 12500 Lamppost Lane, near Parmer Lane in North Austin, was the first in the city to be supported by Affordability Unlocked, a development bonus program supported by the 2018 affordable housing bond. The program waives and modifies some development restrictions in exchange for providing low- and moderate-income housing.

The program is part of the larger city plan with the goal of building 60,000 affordable housing units by 2027.

Originally posted on Austin Business Journal


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