As Williamson County’s population increases and housing costs rise, some nonprofits are offering services to assist residents struggling or unable to afford housing.
Williamson County’s 2014-18 Housing and Urban Development consolidated plan states cost burden is the most common housing problem in the county, with about 22 percent of households burdened by housing costs and about 9 percent spending more than half their income on housing. In 2015, Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center reported the Austin metro area had the second lowest housing affordability rating in the state.
Lori Scott, executive director of the Round Rock Area Serving Center, said hundreds of families utilize the center’s services—such as a food pantry and thrift store—each month and that housing costs are a concern for many low-income residents.
“[Low-income families] are probably doing OK month to month until they have a car repair or [...] something they can’t afford in their monthly budget,” she said. “Then suddenly they’re at jeopardy of getting behind on their rent or their utilities; then they’re at risk of getting evicted or getting their utilities disconnected.”
Although there are no conventional homeless shelters in Williamson County, there are several nonprofits that supply free or discounted short-term housing for qualified individuals or assist with utility and rent payments.
Williamson-Burnet County Opportunities Inc. manages two apartment complexes with a total of about 200 units that provide low-income families and retirees an affordable housing solution, WBCO Marketing Coordinator Ann Marie Ludlow said.
Ludlow said she has seen an increasing demand for affordable housing, and both of WBCO’s apartment complexes currently have waiting lists.
“The more people who come here, the more people we need to serve,” she said. “They’re building more and more houses, but they’re not always affordable.”
1 | Habitat for Humanity, Williamson County
Services: The organization provides new home construction and exterior home repairs. Since 1999, volunteers have assisted 68 area families with home construction or renovation.
How to help: Volunteers assist in building homes, working in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore—a home-improvement store and donation center—and help to govern the organization. Financial contributions can also be designated for home construction.
2 | STARRY
Services: The organization provides foster homes, case managers and professional counselors for homeless children age 17 and younger. It serves hundreds of children in Central Texas and thousands throughout the state annually.
How to help: STARRY seeks participants for volunteer opportunities, monthly open house tours and awareness efforts. Financial donations are also accepted. More information is available at www.starry.org.
3 | Round Rock Area Serving Center
Services: The center operates a thrift store and food pantry serving 1,100 families monthly. It provides rent and utility payment assistance, and case managers are available to connect homeless individuals with transportation and housing services. The center services southern Williamson County.
How to help: Donations are accepted online, or checks can be made payable to the Round Rock Area Serving Center. Donors can designate a special gift with “food pantry” or “rent assistance” in the memo line.
4 | Hope Alliance
Services: The organization manages a shelter for women and children that accommodates 35 individuals. It serves about 3,400 area residents annually.
How to help: Volunteer and fundraising opportunities are available, and donations of online wish list items are accepted.
Contact: 512-255-1212, www.hopealliancetx.org
5 | Williamson-Burnet County Opportunities Inc.
Services: Provides qualified residents with emergency rental assistance, aids in the completion of government assistance applications and refers individuals to area resources. The organization also manages two affordable housing apartment communities for fixed-income and low-income residents and provides Meals on Wheels and Head Start services.
How to help: Volunteers may assist with landscaping and maintenance projects at rental properties. Financial donations are also accepted.