Rising property values in Austin create challenges for Habitat for Humanity

Austin Habitat for Humanity is having trouble finding affordable lots to build on.

Home values in Austin have climbed 6.5 percent in the last year.
“The cost of property in Austin is probably hitting us harder this year and next year than it ever has in our 30 year history here in Austin,” said Phyllis Snodgrass, president of Austin Habitat for Humanity. 

Habitat for Humanity builds homes for families who cannot find affordable options, but with property values in Austin climbing every year; it's getting difficult for the organization to continue doing their work.

“When Austin Habitat was first founded, Habitat could go and purchase a lot in East Austin for $5-6,000, build a house on it, raise the money and get a working family in a home. Today, the lots in the neighborhoods where we had built Habitat homes in the past are selling for over $100,000,” Snodgrass said.

Because property values don't appear to be decreasing anytime soon, directors at Austin Habitat for Humanity are trying to get creative.

“It's becoming a significant problem. We're getting to get big city problems at this Habitat and, as a result of that, we've started talking with Habitats across the country to find out what they're doing and how they're dealing with it,” said Snodgrass. 

One way Habitats in other big cities have kept up with costs is to build outside of city limits, but Austin Habitat doesn't want to build somewhere farther away that doesn't have public transportation options.

“What we don't want to do is go so far out that it becomes affordable, but then there's no easy way for them to get back to work,” Snodgrass said. 

In the meantime, Austin Habitat has found it helpful to build denser, multi-story communities on lots they've already purchased.

“We're here for the long haul and we're going to find ways to get land and build on it, but what it means more likely is that as the projects get closer and closer to downtown, we're going to have to build up,” said Snodgrass. 

Habitat has only six lots left in Austin they can build on, so they need sponsors, donations and partnerships now more than ever.

Another issue facing Austin Habitat is the increase in costs to build a home. It used to be about $65,000 to get each home completed, but now it is upwards of $90,000.

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