Creating a Sustainable Affordable Homes Program: Case Study of the Mueller Redevelopment Project
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New Urbanism is a design strategy that has emerged over the last 30 years with the focus on how to best preserve, design, develop and restore our regions, cities, and neighborhoods. Although certain principles of New Urbanism have translated successfully into modern developments, there are still critiques on the failure of New Urbanism of achieving its stated principles of creating neighborhoods that are diverse in income. The city of Austin, Texas is facing a similar problem in lack of affordability as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation with rapidly rising property values and a median family income (M.F.I.) level that is well above the national average (Way et al., 4). The city is experiencing an increased demand for housing, particularly affordable housing in East Austin where gentrification is rapidly displacing families who can no longer afford to live in their homes (Jankowski, 1). Therefore, when the city of Austin began to approach redeveloping the Robert Mueller Municipal airport in the 1990s, a collective effort ensued between the City and the Community to create a plan for the site. A vision was created for a district that “would be a model for responsible urban redevelopment” with “Diversity and Affordability” being listed as one of key goals of the plan to be achieved by public-private partnerships between the master developer - Catellus Development, the City of Austin, Mueller homebuilders and apartment developers, and non-profit community organizations to provide at least 25% of Mueller’s for-sale and for-rent units to prospective residents at a reduced cost through Mueller’s affordable homes program (The Plan, Mueller Austin). The purpose of this case study will be to understand how public-private partnerships, inclusionary zoning, and community participation are being used to achieve sustainable, mixed-income housing at the Mueller redevelopment project which is a New Urbanist infill development site. At this stage in the research, mixed-income housing refers to a development that is comprised of housing units with differing levels of affordability with both market-rate homes and homes made available to low-income residents below the market rate (Mixed-Income Housing and the HOME Program, HUD). This research will consist of an extensive literature review on the history and trends of affordability in both New Urbanist and Infill developments, along with analyzing secondary sources such as meeting minutes and public reports related to the affordability problem in Austin along with the structure and implementation of the Mueller affordable homes program. As the city of Austin continues to grow, it will be important for future developers to have a vision for creative, inclusive neighborhoods that can meet the demands of those from a diverse range of backgrounds.