The city of Austin, host of the November 28-29 HIVE Conference, is taking serious action to combat the affordable housing issue facing the market by acquiring properties and transitioning them into more affordable options.

About a half-hour drive north from downtown Austin, just off the I-35 freeway, you can find one of the most cutting-edge innovations in a city that has worked hard to earn a reputation as an innovation hub. The Texas capital welcomes thousands of tech CEOs, investors, thinkers and leaders to discuss the latest innovations at the annual South by Southwest Conference & Festival. But this isn’t even on their radar.

Of course, this particular innovation doesn’t have much to do with the next big app or artificial intelligence. At this location on Wells Branch Parkway, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin recently acquired a property with 308 units of “luxury” housing, including a pool, a clubhouse with a billiard table, a fitness center and a business center. With a few swipes of the pen, half of those units became permanently affordable housing. The property wasn’t previously in foreclosure, nor was it seized through eminent domain. In a highly unusual move for a local public housing authority, in these times especially, it simply went out and purchased the property on the open market

It wasn’t the first property that the Housing Authority of the City of Austin acquired in that manner, and it won’t be the last. Since 2012, the housing authority has acquired more than 2,100 units of existing housing, reserving half of those units to rent at rates affordable to families between 30 to 120 percent of area median income. The rest of the units rent out at market rates, although families with Section 8 rental assistance vouchers can rent those market-rate units and still only pay 30 percent of their monthly income in rent.

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