The contract marks the first action the county has taken since it allocated $110 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to provide supportive housing for Austinites in September 2021, said Travis County Judge Andy Brown.
“[September 2021] unleashed an avalanche of public support. ... That is the power of what we can do with public and private partnerships,” MLF founder and CEO Alan Graham said.
The contract also marks a step toward fulfilling a regional goal between the city, county and private entities to provide 3,000 supportive housing units by 2024.
The nonprofit Ending Community Homelessness Coalition—known as ECHO—estimates at least 4,611 people experienced homelessness on a single night in October 2022 in Travis County.
“Austin has an affordability crisis, but it doesn’t have to have a moral one too,” Brown said at the press conference.
The $35 million will go toward building another MLF Community First! Village—called Burleson Village—in Southeast Austin, as well as roads, utilities and other community resources.
Burleson Village will provide 640 housing units, half of them being micro-homes ranging from sub 200-400 square feet, and half being park model RV units.
The housing complex will also offer additional support for residents such as mental and physical health services, addiction services, Family Eldercare and restorative justice—conflict resolution training for residents who have experienced extreme trauma, as Community First! Village residents have experienced homelessness for nine years on average.
Graham expects to break ground on the project in the summer following a bidding process. MLF will take two years to prepare the site before building vertically and will welcome residents by mid-2025.
MLF is also currently working on an expansion to its existing housing complex on Hogs Eye Road, which broke ground in October 2022.
After the expansion and the Burleson Village project is complete, Graham predicts Community First! Village will jump from 400 residents to nearly 2,000.
“Hundreds of our vulnerable residents will have a way out of the cycle [of homelessness],” U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett said.
The county is working on writing contracts with other local nonprofits, such as the Other Ones Foundation and Foundation Communities, with the remaining $75 million of the $110 million ARPA dollars.