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Ben Carson headed to Austin

HUD secretary to visit public housing site

Rendering of planned Pathways at Goodrich Place development
Rendering of planned Pathways at Goodrich Place development
Humphreys & Partners Architects

On the heels of outing himself as a YIMBY on Twitter, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is headed to Austin for an event that will underscore his stance on the use of local zoning regulations to keep low-income housing out of specific neighborhoods (he’s against it).

Carson, along with federal housing commissioner Brian Montgomery, will attend the groundbreaking ceremony of South Austin public housing property redevelopment Pathways at Goodrich Place on Wednesday, September 19. Built in 1973, the original Goodrich Place housing project declined over the years due to a lack of federal funding.

The Housing Authority of the City of Austin has contracted with Madhouse Development Services and an affiliate of Atlantic Pacific Communities to redevelop the property, for which it received $15 million in competitive low-income housing tax credits—which incentivize investment in multifamily development projects that include a specified percentage of affordable homes—from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (using funds from U.S. Treasury Department) last year.

The grant will allow the development of the Goodrich Place property—on which old structures have already been demolished and removed—into Pathways at Goodrich Place: A mixed-income development with a total of 120 apartments. The three-story building will include affordable one- to four-bedroom units—40 of which will replace the original apartments and will continue to be “deeply affordable,” or 30 percent of median household income. All former Goodrich residents will have the right to return to the property once construction is complete.

A 2017 story in Community Impact noted that an application requesting city resolutions in support of the project stated that five percent of the units will be reserved for residents with “special needs, including those who are struggling with alcohol or drug addictions, the chronically homeless, people with disabilities, and veterans or wounded warriors.” According to the CI story, other units in the complex will be priced at 50 and 60 percent of median household income and at least 12—four one-bedroom, six two-bedroom, and two three-bedroom units—were listed on the application at market prices.

Community improvements will include a business center, a fitness center, a playground, and a community meeting room as well as access to onsite health and wellness programs, youth enrichment activities, and job training opportunities.

The redevelopment was made possible by a HUD-initiated program developed to address the $26 billion backlog of deferred repairs and improvements in U.S. public housing. That conversion allowed housing authorities nationwide to leverage rental-assistance contracts to finance rehabilitation and preservation of aging properties.

Carson’s visit for the Austin groundbreaking/credit-taking is a solid if completely symbolic move for the secretary in his suddenly public conversion to YIMBYism—an easy walk for a project for which there was little, if any, neighborhood objection. While it’s located in the relatively pricey Zilker neighborhood (Zillow puts puts the median home listing price per square foot at $471, compared to the city’s $214, and Rentcafe estimates rent costs at 19 percent higher than the city average), the redevelopment got no discernible pushback from the neighborhood association. It was supported by an Austin City Council resolution as well as by its council district representative, Ann Kitchen (who is also scheduled to be at the groundbreaking), and its census tract clearly still qualified for federal funding—presumably because the property had already been the site of public housing for 45 years.

Ben Carson and HUD Get Ready to Take on the Nimbys [Bloomberg]

Austin’s Goodrich Place may get more affordable housing, some market rate units [Community Impact]