You Can Now Search For Affordable Housing In Austin By Your Income
The City of Austin has launched a new searchable map of affordable housing in the city. Users can input their annual income and the number of people in their household to see a map of income-restricted houses they may qualify for.
“I think putting this openly and out there in the public helps [give people equal access to available units]," Council Member Greg Casar told members of the city’s Housing and Planning Department who unveiled the map Tuesday. "Because now you’ve broken down a barrier and people can look it up on their own phone or computer."
Staff created the map in response to a resolution City Council passed two years ago, which asked the city to come up with a program to better connect low-income residents with affordable housing.
Around the same time, the city published a mapped list of affordable housing, but it wasn't searchable by income. In addition to that function, the new map allows users to see a list of amenities available at each site, such as whether pets are allowed or if there is access to a washer and dryer.
The city has contracted with a third party that will continually update the map’s data.
“Sometimes developments are sold, property management companies change. We want to make sure that data is up to date,” said Zachary Stern, who works with the Housing and Planning Department.
The map has its limitations, though; it does not include real-time vacancy information, so people will need to contact the owners themselves to see if there are any units to rent. The map will show whether a property has a waitlist, but residents still need to call to get on it.
“I’m most interested in the steps after this one,” Casar said Tuesday. He urged city staff to investigate how Austin could be more proactive about ensuring people most in need of emergency affordable housing, such as those living in family violence shelters, find out how to apply for it.
One idea was for the city to maintain its own waitlist of people needing income-restricted housing. When an affordable unit became available, a landlord would then notify the city.
Housing and Planning Department Director Rosie Truelove said that was more complicated than expected.
“It’s been harder to find a path to [a waitlist] in actuality, given all the different parties involved and the need for the data to be more real-time than what we’re finding we’re able to do,” she said. “Just keeping [this map] updated and maintained is actively a full-time job.”