Thanks to a multi-agency, cross-sector collaboration, a nonprofit will break ground in early 2019 on a new 27-unit apartment complex specifically for people living with disabilities, perhaps the first of its kind in Austin. The $5.5 million Briarcliff complex will be funded by a number of creative and innovative sources.
Low-income people with disabilities have unique housing needs, says Jolene Keene, executive director of Accessible Housing Austin, the lead nonprofit on the project. Their physical space must accommodate situations ranging from wheelchairs, hearing and visual impairments, and other disabilities, and have access to public transportation and proximity to healthcare services. That means they may need wider doors, ramps and elevators, lower countertops and other accommodations. And since people with disabilities often can’t drive, they may rely on public transportation to get around.
It’s equally important, she says, that they be integrated with the rest of the community. To that end, Briarcliff will be one mile north of the Mueller development and one mile east of Capital Plaza, which is near two bus lines and with access to grocery stores, medical offices and other facilities. The Housing Authority of the City of Austin owns the land and will lease it to Accessible Housing Austin for 99 years for one dollar. “Because it’s owned by the housing authority, and we’re a governmental entity, AHA will not have to pay taxes on the land,” said Ron Kowal, vice president of housing development for the housing authority. “This is an opportunity for them to keep their rents substantially lower.”