Future affordable housing could be in jeopardy under GOP tax plan

The Housing Authority of Austin wants to build 400 units of affordable housing on the current site of the Chalmer Court Apartments in east Austin.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — More affordable housing could be on the way to Austin. City Council will vote Thursday on funding for an additional 1,000 units. The Housing Authority of Austin would build the apartments with the help from the federal government, but the proposed GOP tax plan could put future projects in jeopardy. Housing Authority of the City of Austin is a public unit of government separate from the City of Austin.

As Congress considers tax reform, it is looking at taking away the ability to issue private activity bonds for multi-family housing — and that would limit the use of the 4 percent low income housing tax credit. That tax credit is given to investors who put money up front to build affordable housing. The Housing Authority of Austin says its been called one of the most successful programs in affordable housing in the country.

“That’s responsible for about half of the low income housing production in our country each year, so it’s a significant change, and it would mean that fewer people in Austin will be served over the long term, and it will mean fewer resources for our city council to employ to meet the affordable housing needs in our community,” says Mike Gerber, President & CEO of the Housing Authority of Austin.

In order to build additional affordable housing, the Housing Authority of Austin will ask city council Thursday to approve millions of dollars in low income tax credits to be utilized for construction of four new apartment complexes.

“In order to meet the need and be in places where there are jobs, options for healthcare, good schools, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to either acquire or develop new properties,” Gerber says.

One project would entail building a new complex off Chalmers Avenue in east Austin. This complex would house current tenants at the Chalmers Court Apartments while that 150 unit complex is torn down to make way for a complex with 400 units. It will require $15 million in private activity bonds and low income housing tax credits.

The Housing Authority also wants to use more than $50-million of that same type of funding to build more than 550 units in the Goodnight Ranch subdivision in Southeast Austin and another affordable housing complex off Cameron Road.

All of the units will be open to voucher recipients and available to low income residents.

“It’s very hard for people who are on Section 8 or any form of rental assistance or voucher the federal government gives out to find affordable housing in our city,” Gerber says.

For example, a family of four making less than $44,000 per year can qualify for rent around $1,200 per month. Currently the Housing Authority of Austin runs 3,500 affordable units throughout the city.

If city council approves the use of the federal money, construction is expected to begin within six months.

Kate Weidaw is LIVE at Chalmers Court Apartments in east Austin with how the plan will change Austin, on KXAN News Today

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