Local nonprofit, city partnering on 171-unit affordable housing complex in North Austin that will help residents experiencing homelessness

1934 Rutland Drive
Espero Austin at Rutland will be built at 1934 Rutland Drive, currently occupied by a strip mall development. The affordable housing complex will be built through a partnership among Caritas of Austin, Vecino Group and Austin Housing Finance Corp. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Espero Austin at Rutland will be built at 1934 Rutland Drive, currently occupied by a strip mall development. The affordable housing complex will be built through a partnership among Caritas of Austin, Vecino Group and Austin Housing Finance Corp. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

A multipartner effort is underway to establish an affordable housing development in North Austin that will dedicate units for the purpose of finding permanent housing solutions for the city’s residents experiencing homelessness.

Local nonprofit group Caritas of Austin is working alongside Missouri-based development firm Vecino Group to redevelop a 2-acre property at 1934 Rutland Drive into 171 studio units. The 95,471-square-foot development will have dozens of units dedicated to serving Austin’s chronically homeless residents—people who have experienced homelessness for longer than a year or experienced homelessness four or more times in the last three years—according to Caritas of Austin President and CEO Jo Kathryn Quinn.

“We will have a set aside of 43 units for the chronically homeless. The rest will be open for people who have been homeless for a much shorter period of time,” Quinn said at a Jan. 21 North Austin Civic Association meeting.

The Austin Housing Finance Corp., a public nonprofit under the purview of the city of Austin, will serve as a public partner on this development, known as Espero Austin at Rutland. According to city staff from the Austin Housing and Planning Department, the AHFC will own the land and lease it to Caritas and Vecino. Caritas will provide services to residents living at the property, and Vecino will oversee development of the site.

“[The city of Austin is] also providing rental assistance,” Quinn said.


The AHFC approved $8.5 million in Rental Housing Development Assistance funds for the acquisition and construction of the development, according to the Austin Housing and Planning Department. Of that pool of funds, $3 million comes from the Austin Housing Trust Fund and $5.5 million from the city’s 2018 General Obligation Fund.

Before redevelopment can begin on the property, the project needs approval on an application for a Non-Competitive 4% Housing Tax Credit from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Per the TDHCA’s website, the tax credit provides “a source of equity financing for the development of affordable housing.” Developers of affordable housing properties can use this tax credit for a reduction of federal income tax liability.

The project’s application for that tax credit will be deliberated at the TDCHA board meeting in March, Quinn said.

Permits filed with the city of Austin show all units at Espero will serve residents who make 60% or below of the median family income. According to the city of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office, the 60% MFI limit for a single-person household in Travis County is currently $41,000 annually.

The majority of residents at the future development will earn less than that annually. According to city permit documents, 84% of Espero’s units will serve residents making 50% or 30% of the area MFI.

“We’ll be using project-based vouchers for people who can’t pay their full rent,” Quinn said Jan. 21. “We will be targeting people experiencing homelessness who live in the community.”

The Austin Housing and Planning Department said 101 of the total 171 units will ultimately go to help house people experiencing homelessness who have been through an eligibility process administered by local nonprofit Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.

Development details

Espero Austin at Rutland will offer efficiency studio apartments that come fully furnished and equipped with kitchens in a four-story building, city documents show.

The development will add approximately 60 parking spaces for staff and residents. Heather Bradley-Geary, director of supportive housing at Vecino, said the partnership anticipates most of the residents will rely on public transit for transportation needs. Stops for two MetroBus routes—the 142 Metric Flyer route and the 325 Metric/Rundberg route—are located within a quarter mile from the site of Espero Austin at Rutland.

“We’ve done a study of who will need parking. Most people will not have cars,” Bradley-Geary said at the Jan. 21 NACA meeting.

Quinn said Caritas will provide support services on-site for residents, and staff will be on-site at all hours every day of the week. Some of the staff on-site at Espero Austin at Rutland will include professional social workers, Quinn said, with a 1-to-12 staff-to-client ratio of the development’s chronically homeless residents.

Under its current timeline, redevelopment of the Espero Austin at Rutland project is set to begin in early summer, according to Bradley-Geary. Construction would wrap by the end of summer 2022, and Bradley-Geary said the building would likely be leased out within 90 days of opening for applications.

“We know that the need exists in the community, so I anticipate filling leases pretty quickly,” Bradley-Geary said.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


MOST RECENT

Austin government, nonprofit and business leaders recently participated in a weeks-long summit centered on unsheltered homelessness in the city. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plan to house 3,000 homeless individuals in Austin in the next three years would cost $515 million

The plan Austin City Council members discussed April 20 emerged from a weekslong community-wide summit on homelessness.

Photo of Zilker Park
Travis County establishes Civilian Conservation Corps to tackle climate, environmental projects

The program will create opportunities for residents to work on projects including wildfire prevention, solar energy promotion and park cleanups.

Residents march to the Texas Capitol in protests after the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Austin leaders react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard speaks to reporters March 13 at the Delco Actiity Center in Northeast Austin. Residents can walk up to the Delco Center on April 22 and 23 and receive vaccines without an appointment. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Public Health will accept walk-up vaccinations at the Delco Activity Center starting April 22

APH will also leave its registration portal open throughout most of the week.

Williamson County will close its mass-vaccination sites. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County commissioners to close mass-vaccination sites

The county judge expects to have everyone who wants to be vaccinated to receive the shot by May 21.

Early voting for Travis County's May 1 local elections opened April 19. In this file photo, voters line up ahead of the 2020 primary elections at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than 8,000 Travis County voters cast ballots on first day of early voting

Early voting for the county's May 1 election began April 19 and will run through April 27.

Here are the most recent coronavirus updates from Williamson County.(Community Impact staff)
Nearly half of Williamson County is vaccinated, but positivity rate climbs again

Here are the most recent coronavirus updates from Williamson County.

The Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin is one of the locations where residents can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Jack Flalger/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin vaccine updates: Demand slows as state begins marketing push

Appointments are beginning to go unfilled, and local health officials say demand has caught up to supply. All adults in the U.S. are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Blue Corn Harvest Leander is located at 11840 Hero Way W., Bldg. A, Leander. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Blue Corn Harvest opens in Leander; park, pizzeria launches social club and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Photo of two performers on an outdoor SXSW stage
South by Southwest sells ownership stake in company to Rolling Stone owner Penske Media Corp.

SXSW leadership called the sale a "lifeline" for the conference and festivals.

Photo of people receiving vaccines in a gym
Austin Public Health lengthens windows for vaccine appointment signups

Residents age 18 and up can now sign up for appointments with APH any time from Saturday to Tuesday morning.