The Hancock project to house the homeless navigates through the Planning Commission

Thursday May 26th, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

The Planning Commission unanimously backed a zoning change on Tuesday that would allow housing for people exiting homelessness to be built in the Hancock neighborhood.

A group of affordable housing developers hopes to rezone three lots at 1004-1008 E. 39th St. in Multifamily-Moderate Density (MF-4-NP) to build 100 permanent supportive housing units, an arrangement where tenants stay long term and have access to on-site support services.

“This project helps meet the need of the most vulnerable we see in Austin, those we see struggling to find stable housing as we move through our great city,” said Megan Lasch of Saigebrook Development and O-SDA Industries.

The project, called Cady Lofts, is proposed as a three- and four-story building with studio apartments. The development team includes Austin Affordable Housing Corporation and SGI Ventures as developers, and New Hope Housing, Saigebrook Development and O-SDA Industries as consultants. The AAHC is a non-profit organization affiliated with the City of Austin.

Even without the rezoning, the project would likely be built anyway — with just six floors instead of four — using Affordability Unlocked, a program that waives parking and compatibility requirements for affordable housing. But Lasch said that wasn’t ideal. Building taller costs more, and a shorter building is better suited to adjacent single-family homes, she said.

Cady Lofts stands a good chance of receiving the competitive 9% tax credits that the state distributes. The project achieves the best results in its region partly because there are no similar projects nearby. Few affordable housing projects are built west of Interstate 35 in part due to high land values ​​and well-organized neighborhood opposition.

At the last planning commission meeting, the Hancock Neighborhood Association asked for a long delay which, if approved, could have jeopardized the tax credit application and the project as a whole. The commission instead granted a two-week postponement. The neighborhood association opposes the project, with 87.5% of members voting against.

Thanks to the efforts of the advocacy group Austin Justice Coalition, more people came out in favor on Tuesday than against — a rarity in rezonings. “I want to send a very clear message to all neighborhoods in Austin today: We are ready to stand up and fight for (permanent supportive housing),” said João Paulo Connolly, director of the organization of AJC.

Chris Baker, executive director of homeless aid provider The Other Ones Foundation, expressed exasperation with opposition to the project. “The whole idea that there would be people in this community who would oppose housing for our brothers and sisters who live on the streets, when we as a city have collectively decided that we are going to make it illegal for the people. living outdoors is beyond pale,” Baker said.

A statement by the Austin Justice Coalition in support of the project has been signed by numerous organizations, advocates and politicians, including Mayor Steve Adler and all members of City Council except Mackenzie Kelly, Kathie Tovo and Alison Alter. The project is located in District 9 of Tovo.

Neighbors opposed to the rezoning said they needed more time to assess the project’s impact on them.

“The need for experts is evident here on our side, that we need to do our due diligence and look for the issues,” said HNA President Coan Dillahunty. “Not because we are opposed to this project or to supportive public housing, but we have real concerns about how it will work in our neighborhood and how safe it will be for the neighborhood and future tenants.”

Dillahunty said neighbors can hire an attorney “to see if there’s a violation (of state law relating to) spot zoning or contract zoning.”

Lasch said she has been trying to address neighbors’ concerns since January.

After questions and discussion from the commissioners, the members voted unanimously in favor of the zoning change.

“It’s a lot of density for the site, but I have a lot of confidence in the detail and the attention that is given to each piece,” said curator Carmen Llanes Pulido, who presented the motion.

Commissioner Greg Anderson applauded those who spoke in favor of the project. “There are always excuses against housing. But I heard a lot of pro housing voices today, and it was really, really wonderful.

The city council is due to vote on the case on June 9.

Rendering of Cady Lofts, courtesy of Saigebrook Development.

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