New housing for disabled to break ground in 2019

Aerial-Rendering AHA accessible housing Austin

Thanks to a multi-agency, cross-sector collaboration, a nonprofit will break ground in early 2019 on a new 27-unit apartment complex specifically for people living with disabilities, perhaps the first of its kind in Austin. The $5.5 million Briarcliff complex will be funded by a number of creative and innovative sources.

Low-income people with disabilities have unique housing needs, says Jolene Keene, executive director of Accessible Housing Austin, the nonprofit lead on the project. Their physical space must accommodate situations ranging from wheelchairs, hearing and visual impairments, and other disabilities, and have access to public transportation and proximity to healthcare services. That means they may need wider doorways, ramps and elevators, lower counter tops, and other accommodations. And since people with disabilities often can’t drive, they may rely on public transportation to get around.

It’s equally important, she says, that they be integrated with the rest of the community. To that end, Briarcliff will be located one mile north of the Mueller development and one mile east of Capital Plaza, which is near two bus lines and with access to grocery stores, medical offices, and other facilities. The Housing Authority of the City of Austin owns the land and will lease it to AHA for 99 years for one dollar. “Because it’s owned by the housing authority, and we’re a governmental entity, AHA will not have to pay taxes on the land,” said Ron Kowal, vice president of housing development for the housing authority. “This is an opportunity for them to keep their rents substantially lower.”

This month, the Austin Community Foundation announced it would contribute to the development with a $250,000 investment in the Texas Impact Fund, a loan program administered by a statewide nonprofit, the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation. This amount allowed TSAHC to increase its financing for Briarcliff from $695,000 to $995,000, with a reduced interest rate of 2.5 percent during the two-year construction period. ACF’s investment is not a donation or grant, rather it’s part of FundATX, an investment program that offers below-market-rate loans to nonprofits while also generate a financial return for its donors.

“We know grant making can only go so far and we’re committed to maximizing the Austin Community Foundation’s resources through new and innovative solutions, such as impact investing, to help close the opportunity gap in Central Texas,” Mike Nellis, chief executive officer, Austin Community Foundation, said.

Additional funding for the project will come in the form of grants and loans from the City of Austin and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Lola Wright Foundation, the Bank of America Community Foundation, and Frost Bank in partnership with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. “We couldn’t do this without the partnerships we’ve had,” said Keene of AHA.

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