On July 28, Austin City Council, as the Austin Housing Finance Corp. board of directors, unanimously approved a proposal for an affordable housing development at a city-owned site in East Austin.

The National Housing Partnership Foundation, Capital A Housing and Integral Care will build a 262-unit development on a 3-acre site at 3515 Manor Road with both market-rate and affordable housing plus permanent supportive housing and social services for individuals exiting homelessness.

“We all know somebody who's experiencing true challenges around the affordability of housing that they just can't overcome without us doing something different and better and bolder and breaking the cycle of adhering to the status quo,” District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said.

In March, the Austin Housing Finance Corp. and Austin Public Health opened a competitive proposal process for housing developers and nonprofits and asked the public to vote and comment on the top three proposals from the National Housing Partnership Foundation and partners Vecino Group and Foundation Communities from May 31-June 19.

With the highest ranking from an evaluation by city staff and 56% of the public vote, the Austin Housing Finance Corp. and Austin Public Health recommended the National Housing Partnership Foundation proposal for approval by the Austin Housing Finance Corp. board of directors at its July 28 meeting.

Of the competing proposals, Seabrook Square had the highest amount of affordable units and permanent supportive housing, which Mandy De Mayo, deputy director of the Austin Housing and Planning Department, pointed out when recommending the proposal to the Austin Housing Finance Corp. board of directors at the meeting.

Adjacent to the JJ Seabrook neighborhood, Seabrook Square will host 244 units for residents at 60% or less of the median income along with 158 at 50% or less of the median family income and 82 at 30% or less of the median family income. Around 100 units will have multiple bedrooms.

The community will also offer 60 permanent supportive housing units for individuals exiting homelessness with direct social services, operated and owned by Integral Care.

"We set a goal as a community, over the next three years, to house 3,000 more people than our system would otherwise house and that requires us to build more permanent supportive housing,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

The Seabrook Square plaza will host space for Black-owned local businesses and nonprofits with a heavy emphasis on art, Capital A Housing principal Conor Kenny said.

“I think it's incumbent on any of us who are doing projects in East Austin to not just offer affordability to slow displacement, but to actually try to establish permanent anchors for the Black community in East Austin,” Kenny said.

The ground floor of Seabrook Square will include an arts-focused cafe by Origin Studio House; 10 affordable apartments featuring art studios, which Six Square will recruit artists for; and a community hall serving as a resilience hub for the community during extreme weather, Kenny said.

Nonprofits Raasin in the Sun and the Austin Area Urban League will have office spaces at Seabrook Square, and Raasin in the Sun will host a public art installation.

“If you want to understand what true collaboration looks like, it is this project,” Six Square CEO Pamela Benson Owens said. “I urge you to support this project, because it absolutely expands space for nonprofits, artists and small businesses.”

Some community members dissented the proposal, favoring Foundation Communities’ Fontaine Trails. In a July 20 letter to the AHFC and the City Council, Liz Johnson, the president of the JJ Seabrook Neighborhood Association, recommended the Foundation Communities proposal, citing more multibedroom units for families, better design compatibility and less money required from the city.

“After proposal review, discussion, outreach, a straw poll and a survey, a strong majority of neighbor respondents favored the Foundation Communities proposal,” Johnson said.

With the AHFC board’s approval, the selected developers will enter into a period of negotiations with the AHFC and Austin Public Health, reaching agreements and a service contract in September, according to a city spokesperson.

The total project will cost over $76 million with $25 million from the National Housing Partnership Foundation; $29 million from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan; around $6 million from the city’s 2018 affordable housing bond; and other sources of state, county and private funding, Kenny said.

The developers hope to break ground on Seabrook Square in 2023, Kenny said.