Austin City Council approves zoning change for Cactus Rose tract

The Austin City Council Thursday gave final approval for a zoning change that will allow an upscale apartment complex to be built on land that now houses a mobile-home park with lower-income residents.

The vote came after the remaining residents of the Cactus Rose trailer park in East Austin reached an agreement this week for relocation assistance with Oden Hughes, the developer that plans to build the planned Lenox Oaks apartment complex on the property. The land is off of U.S. 183 near Vargas Road, in rapidly gentrifying East Austin.

The agreement concludes more than 18 months of talks between City Council member Sabino “Pio” Renteria, the Cactus Rose Neighborhood Association, Montopolis neighborhood representatives and Austin-based developer Oden Hughes.

The mobile-home park formerly housed more than 50 families, most of them Spanish-speaking, although some have moved since the developer announced plans for the project.

Remaining Cactus Rose mobile home owners who are current on their rent will have nine months to move once they receive a notice to vacate the property. Owners living in a single-wide mobile homes will each receive $10,000 in relocation assistance. There is one double-wide mobile home currently in the park, according to the agreement, and the owners of that home will receive $20,000.

Owners of recreational vehicles, and renters of permanent structures such as a duplex, will each receive $2,000. Residents will also receive their security deposits, as well as bilingual relocation assistance by a licensed real estate professional.

Mac McElwrath, managing director of Oden Hughes, said the agreement “is superior to all other tenant relocation assistance programs that we are aware of anywhere in the country,” including a program recently approved by the city of Austin.

Cynthia Martinez, a Cactus Rose resident and spokeswoman for Cactus Rose Neighborhood Association, said in a written statement: “Everyone worked on having an open mind in formulating a unique vision which keeps residents within two miles of their community and allows for children to stay in their neighborhood schools. The agreement reached by Oden Hughes and Cactus Rose residents shows that affordable housing can happen if all those involved genuinely work together.”

Susana Almanza, president of Montopolis Neighborhood Association, said that even with the financial support from Oden Hughes, “there is still a shortfall of funds to provide affordable housing. We challenge Austin and corporate America to contribute funds to provide much needed affordable housing for these families.”

Renteria said that as a city, Austin is “far from granting renters and mobile home residents the rights they deserve, but this is a step in the right direction.”

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