A new Harvard University study on the state of the nation’s housing found that rapidly escalating land prices make construction of low-cost housing a challenge for cities. Central Texas has seen a rapid escalation in land prices in recent years, making it difficult for nonprofit organizations to provide affordable housing to low-income families.
Phyllis Snodgrass is chief executive officer of Austin Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds affordable housing. The organization serves a five-county area around Austin. The group tries to house families within their current community.
“There are homes that we have built in the periphery around the Austin area,” Snodgrass says. “But we really don’t want to push families working and living in Austin to those areas … we don’t want to take cost-burdened families who are trying to live and work somewhere close together and put them at really long distances and away from all the services that they might need. So we’re trying to build housing closer to the core of Austin to serve people that need to work here.”
Snodgrass says Habitat’s strategy relies heavily on advocating for policies that allow more low-income housing to be built, and educating the public on the issue.
“We basically have to have an all of the above strategy, Snodgrass says. “We actively solicit partnerships with developers and builders. We’re out there pitching it constantly because the way we’re going to get into neighborhoods is have beautiful product that people are not afraid of and demonstrate our ability to deliver on product.”
Habitat recently broke ground on its first multifamily housing project in Austin’s Mueller neighborhood. The project is made possible by city policies encouraging affordable housing in the area.
Written by Antonio Cueto.