Two affordable housing developments have broken ground this year in Georgetown, and additional developments that make use of state tax credits for income-restricted housing are on the way.
The future Merritt Heritage Senior Village at 4700 Williams Drive celebrated the start of construction Nov. 15. Merritt Heritage will feature 244 units ranging from one to three bedrooms in size with half of the units considered affordable, or set aside for tenants with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median income.
Colby Denison of Denison Development and Construction, the project’s developer, said Merritt Heritage is expected to finish construction and be ready for tenants to move in by December 2018.
Merritt Heritage will feature amenities such as a movie theater, a gym, a salon and spa as well as shuttle service to allow residents to travel around town, said Jackie Weissmiller, vice president of property management for Veritee Property Solutions, which will manage leasing and other aspects of the new development.
Georgetown City Council approved two resolutions Nov. 28 that will let developer Pedcor Investments apply for 4 percent noncompetitive state tax grants for its proposed affordable housing project in the 1500 block of NE Inner Loop. Called the Residences at Stillwater, the development will include 192 units, all at affordable rates.
The council voted 5-2 to approve the resolutions after discussion that rekindled similar debate from 2016, when council members chose to revise the city’s process for overseeing and vetting potential affordable housing developers by requiring developers to hold public meetings and meet certain zoning standards.
Actions approved by council Nov. 28 included a resolution of no objection for Pedcor to apply for housing tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and a resolution acknowledging that Georgetown has more than two times the state average per capita amount of housing tax credits.
Approval of both resolutions was necessary before Pedcor can apply to the state for tax credits for the Residences at Stillwater development. The tax credits can offset building costs and other project expenses.
In addition to the 4 percent noncompetitive housing tax credit—the one Pedcor intends to apply for—Texas also offers a 9 percent housing tax credit that is awarded annually through a competitive application process.
Council Member Steve Fought, who opposed approving the resolutions along with Council Member Ty Gipson, said before the vote that the city should not shy away from addressing affordable housing, but he disagreed with the current approach. He said he believes Georgetown has taken on a greater burden in allowing affordable housing developments than neighboring cities in Williamson County and elsewhere in the region.
“The rationale is not against the project itself; the rationale is against the regional loading [of affordable housing projects in Georgetown],” Fought said about his opposition to the Nov. 28 resolutions.
Council members heard comments from 10 speakers, including Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook, who all favored Pedcor’s proposal.
“For me, this isn’t just a smart decision—and it is a smart decision—it’s a moral one,” said Council Member Rachael Jonrowe, who voted in support of Pedcor.
Along with its new proposal, Pedcor broke ground in July on Live Oak Apartments, an income-restricted apartment complex at 4121 Williams Drive. The 108-unit complex is expected to finish before November 2018, and preleasing should begin next summer, according to Pedcor.
Live Oak Apartments will include one-, two- and three-bedroom units, according to Georgetown city planning documents. All of the complex’s units will have rent restricted by tenants’ incomes, with about half of the 108 units set aside for tenants with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median income, according to planning documents.
An additional development, the 102-unit Kaia Pointe complex, has been approved for 104 Gatlin Creek Drive but has not begun construction. Kaia Pointe will offer 78 percent of its leases at affordable housing rates, according to Sagebrook Development, the project’s builder.
Three developments approved by City Council in 2016 received low-income housing tax credit grants last year: Live Oak Apartments received $1.5 million; Kaia Pointe received more than $1.3 million; and Merritt Heritage received more than $1.1 million, according to the state housing department.
Georgetown officials plan to update the housing element of the city’s comprehensive plan in 2018, said Susan Watkins, the city’s housing coordinator. The update will look at Georgetown’s housing growth scenarios and future demand, she said.
Watkins said access to affordable housing has been a top issue for a number of cities in Central Texas and around the U.S., particularly in areas that have seen recent population growth.
“Almost any community is dealing with the issue of affordability,” Watkins said.
Pedcor’s request for the Residences at Stillwater was the first request made to City Council under the city’s new guidelines for developers of affordable housing projects who intend to apply for state housing tax credits.
Georgetown requires developers to hold public meetings with residents living near the locations of proposed projects. Developers must also undergo a zoning review by the city, meet a series of deadlines to submit information, and organize meetings and provide the city with data on current tax-credit inventory, according to the city’s rules.