The Best Laid Plans: Homelessness in Downtown Austin

On Saturday the Austin-American Statesman ran a story called “Downtown living isn’t a new trend”, with the subtitle “Despite appearances, people have been living in downtown Austin for decades.”

Yes, they’re called the homeless.

Oh wait, the story is actually about rich people. Rich people who want a Target downtown.

Although downtown has much to offer, living there isn’t cheap, especially in the newer high-rises. The least expensive unit in the Austin City Lofts goes for about $330,000.

East of Congress Avenue, construction will start soon on the 250-unit Rainey Street Apartments. Rents for the penthouse units in the 13-story complex are expected to top $3,500 a month.

Later this month, the Five Fifty Five project — 99 upscale condos in the 5-month-old Hilton Hotel downtown — will go on the market. The smallest units, 800 square feet, will start in the mid-$200,000s, while the 4,000-square-foot penthouses will be $2 million and up.

Although downtown offers attractions such as galleries, shops, outdoor festivals and a farmer’s market, residents say some gaps remain.

Speyer, who likes to walk to nearby galleries, the Capitol grounds and other downtown attractions, wants a discount movie theater. Others covet a first-run theater, a convenience store or neighborhood grocery, a hardware store and a big-box retailer such as Target.

In the late 1990s a group of Austin affordable housing folks were in the process of developing a project to convert the empty Reddy Ice factory on Red River into affordable housing with federal tax credits. Eligibility of a project for the best kind of tax credits is based on the socioeconomic characteristics of the census tract in which it is to be located.

During the planning process, the 2000 Census revealed that the mean income in the downtown census tract had risen sharply – due to the influx of people who can afford condos like the ones described above. Despite the fact that absolute need hadn’t changed, the census tract was no longer eligible for the tax credits and the project couldn’t go forward. The building was slated to be redeveloped into upscale apartments in 2002, but as of 2004 it’s still empty.

No point, really. I’m just not all that moved by the plight of poor neglected downtown Austinites in $300,000 condos who covet a movie theater.

One thought on “The Best Laid Plans: Homelessness in Downtown Austin

  1. JPed

    You’re so mean-spirited! I bet the poor darlings don’t have anywhere to wash their Beemers and Lincoln Blackwood luxury pickups either!

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