New South Austin subdivision will house working-class people

Peggy West had always dreamt of buying a home in Austin, the city she moved to more than 12 years ago from nearby Lockhart.

She had a steady job at Urban Outfitters, but didn’t think her modest paycheck would ever be enough to pay for a mortgage.

Her sister bought a home in the city before real estate prices skyrocketed. Then her brothers bought homes in smaller towns in the surrounding area.

“As prices were rising around us, I got apathetic (because) I wasn’t ever going to find anything,” she said.

Then her dad, who sometimes does cement construction for Austin Habitat for Humanity, told her about HomeBase, a subsidiary of the nonprofit, which helps provide attainable housing for working class people.

In about a month, West hopes to move into her new home in Westgate Grove, a 141-home subdivision in South Austin built by a partnership of HomeBase, the city of Austin and Momark Development. She’ll be one of the first residents in the community, which still has some phases under construction.

“It’s an actual house,” said West, who has spent much of her adult life living in apartment complexes and shared houses and duplexes. “I’ll have a backyard. … I’m already picturing tomatoes and barbecue and pets. It’s kind of that basic All-American Austin dream.”

The attainable housing subdivision comes at a crucial time in Austin’s history, said Constantine Caloudas, home services supervisor for HomeBase.

“Incomes are rising every year in Austin,” Caloudas said. “More and more Austinites are housing-burdened and are paying disproportionate amounts of income toward housing.”

The subdivision aims to provide attainable housing for working class families that earn 80 percent and below the median family income. For a family of four that would be $61,450, and for a one-person residence, like West, it is $43,050.

HomeBase’s philosophy on housing differs slightly from Austin Habitat for Humanity. Where its parent nonprofit serves strictly low-income clients, HomeBase targets moderate-income households.

HomeBase also does not require any sweat equity into the homes, which are built by developers, not volunteers as with Austin Habitat for Humanity. The homes, however, are offered at lower-than-market values because the group takes out a second lien to keep prices affordable for their clients.

West said she wouldn’t have been able to pay for her future home without the help from HomeBase and is excited to move in, catching every chance she gets to drop by the area and sneak a look at what will be her first home.

“I just want to give a shout-out and thank you to Austin and HomeBase for making this possible,” she said. “They didn’t have to but they went out of their way to make a program where people like me could buy a house. That’s pretty spectacular.”

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