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Why Aren't There More Three-Bedroom Units in Austin's Affordable Housing Stock?

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Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT
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A Mar. 30 public input meeting that's part of a series of meetings that ask citizens what kind of housing options they'd like to see in Austin's affordable housing stock.

As Austin’s housing prices continue to rise, the push for more affordable housing has grown louder, and there's an even greater need for places large enough to fit a family.

Outside the Riverside Meadows Apartments on Montopolis Drive. Susana Almanza points to the sprawling complex as an example of that issue among Austin’s affordable housing options.

“When you look at them, they’re really nice, and you would never think that this is an affordable housing unit,” Almanza says. “But there’s over 240 units here, with 64 units having three bedrooms, so there’s a lot of families living here.”

Almanza is director of PODER, a group that advocates for more affordable housing options in Austin.

Three bedrooms – that’s a detail she says makes a huge difference in whether an apartment can comfortably house a family.

“You might have two boys, three girls, you know – then you’re going to have to split up the family into different bedrooms,” she says.

Almanza says she’s voiced her concerns to city leaders and housing developers, but she’s disappointed to see more and more apartments that cater to single people.

“We’ve been really shocked now to see that they’re only looking at building one- and two-bedrooms, studios and efficiencies,” she says.

It’s hard to tell just how well Austin is meeting the demand for family-friendly housing. The city maintains an inventory of its affordable housing options, but there are no data on the number of bedrooms in each unit.

“'Family-friendly' is certainly something that Austin is really concerned about. A lot of other cities have experienced that phenomenon as well. We can’t really dictate what gets built sometimes,” says Jonathan Tomko of the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development office. “In some instances, we’ve even heard of three-bedrooms being rented out to three college kids or something. So, I think it’s really important to manage expectations of what can be controlled and what can’t be controlled.”

Tomko would like to see more public input on what kind of housing is needed at an upcoming community meeting Monday evening. His office will present a draft housing plan to the Austin City Council in June.

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