New Mueller homes to include some for income-qualified buyers

More housing is on its way to the Mueller development in Northeast Austin, with the latest batch to include 375 homes, almost half of which will be priced within reach of middle-income families, the developer says.

Construction has started for the new section of houses, which will be built in two phases along the east side of Berkman Drive between Zach Scott and Philomena streets, said officials with Catellus Development Corp., which continues to transform the 700-acre former airport site into a large mixed-use project.

The first homes are expected to be ready late this year.

About 135 homes will be reserved for families who earn 80 percent or less of Austin’s median family income, and another 38 homes will be earmarked for families who earn 120 percent or less of Austin’s median family income.

The Austin area’s median family income is $77,800 for a family of four. Eighty percent of the median income works out to an annual incomes of $43,600 for an individual; $49,800 for a two-person household; and $62,250 for a family of four.

At the higher level, 120 percent of median works out to $65,350 for an individual; $74,700 for a two-person household; and $93,360 for a family of four.

In general, prices for the homes reserved for families earning 80 percent or less of the median family income are expected to range between $170,000 and $200,000. Prices for the homes earmarked for buyers who earn up to 120 percent of the median family income are expected to range between $200,000 and $300,000.

In providing homes for families earning up to 120 percent of the area’s median income, Catellus said it is going beyond the affordability requirements in its agreement with the City of Austin.

“We’re proud to be able to offer such a wide variety of housing options at Mueller, but we’re prouder still to be able to expand an already ambitious and sustainable affordable homes program to reach more families, including some who earn up to 120 percent of the median family income,” said Ken Blaker, senior vice president of development for Catellus.

Affordability is a growing concern in the Austin area as housing prices continue to climb.

In Central Texas, the median sales price of all homes sold year-to-date through July was $282,500, a 6.6 percent increase over the same period last year.

“Based on trends in how median home sales price are increasing across the city, we know that the affordability gap for middle-income families is growing larger every year and shows no sign of slowing down,” said Heather Way, a University of Texas law professor and local housing advocate.

While a large affordability gap exists for families earning within 80 to 120 percent of the median income, the gap is even bigger for families making less than 80 percent of the median, Way said.

Mandy De Mayo, executive director of HousingWorks Austin, an affordable housing advocacy nonprofit, said there is an “enormous need for affordable homeownership in Austin,” and she is encouraged to see Catellus “tackling this challenge in a creative way.”

“Even taking advantage of extremely low interest rates, the ‘average’ family earning a median income cannot afford to buy a home in the City of Austin,” De Mayo said. “As a result, moderate-income families are moving further and further outside of the city.”

The new section at Mueller will include yard homes and row houses, and other houses featuring a modern farmhouse design. In addition, David Weekley’s offerings will include “paseo row homes” — a style that emerged from a 2008 housing symposium that called for additional housing choices at Mueller, “ones that could be more affordable by design,” said Jim Adams, a principal with McCann Adams Studio, the master-planner for Mueller. The paseo homes will be compact two- and three-story townhouses, organized in groups of four around landscaped common areas.

Once completed in the next two to three years, Mueller is projected to have 5,900 homes, apartments and condominiums. The addition of the 173 homes in the new section that will be earmarked for income-qualified buyers will bring the total of affordably priced homes to 1,600 units.

Catellus said additional affordable housing at Mueller will be available soon at three apartment complexes currently under construction.

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