A tough choice, but the right one
Last Thursday, the Lockhart City Council was faced with a tough choice.
Grant an Austin developer seemingly bent on building an affordable complex in Lockhart a resolution showing support that might have qualified them for enough tax credits to bring more than 50 new price-restricted apartments to town?
Or, demand to see more in the way of planning, logistics and concrete data despite the project being in its conceptual stages, and deny the developers the resolution they likely needed for continuing their project planning to be worth their while?
The city council decided option B was the best plan, voting unanimously to decline signing resolutions showing support by waiving $250 in building fees on either of two properties near SH-130 upon which the developer potentially wanted to build.
In a city with seemingly few rental options that are a combination of desirable and affordable to middle-income families and individuals, the decision briefly left a bad taste in my mouth. After all, this wasn’t going to be Section 8 housing (a necessity, of course) or housing geared toward only lower-income families. It was going to have units available for people annually earning $35,000-$60,000, and, supposedly, this figure wouldn’t be based on family size, according to documents presented to the council.
But I considered I maybe didn’t have the complete picture … maybe there was another side to this. Maybe the community had more rental housing under $1,000 than I realized.
So, donning my investigative reporter hat, I hit the search engines and looked up what apartment complexes Lockhart already had. A majority of them didn’t have websites, and attempts to call these complexes yielded only answering machines or recordings declaring the number was no longer in service.
A call to one apparently luxury apartment complex that had a website but did not mention anything about availability or cost of its units was not returned. They could likely smell my life savings of 65 cents and two expired press badges through the phone, so I can’t say that I blamed them.
The other ones with websites were income restricted, and said they were almost always full, but that folks were welcome to call and apply to get on the waiting list. An individual who wanted to live there would have to earn under $34,000 annually, and if two folks wanted to live in a unit, their household income couldn’t be more than $39,000.
Calls to real estate companies yielded warm replies and minimal but reasonable results. A 3-bedroom house for $1,400. A 3-bedroom house for $1,300. Two two-bedroom duplexes with garages for $950 apiece.
OK, so, not income restricted, but also not horribly expensive. Typically, leasing agents will not rent out a home unless all paying adults on the potential lease earn a gross monthly income of three times the monthly rent. Using this math, a single person earning $35,000 per year could qualify for the duplexes. A couple earning the median Lockhart household income of approximately $52,000 would just qualify for either of the two three-bedroom houses.
I began to soften my stance. I found those four properties with calls to just two Realtors.
And then, today, an announcement: Right off SH-130, Dailey Electric was opening a new location. After it opens, it will bring an estimated 100 jobs to the area. This comes on the heels of an emergency care center that’s going to pay its personnel an average of $60,000 annually also announcing construction in the same general area.
“We’re trying to convince a lot of businesses to build over here,” said Lockhart Economic Development Corporation Director Rob Tobias, who’s fairly certain it’s an easily sold proposition.
It’s prime land along SH-130, with its quick passage to Austin and San Antonio, and it seems likely that it’s going to be highly sought after with two major announcements within as many months.
The Lockhart City Council is tasked with making good decisions on the city’s behalf. And they said they didn’t see enough in the way of planning or preparation from Bouldin Companies on Thursday night.
Even though everyone wants cheaper rent, the council made a tough but wise decision in the face of possible kneejerk reaction.
And that’s the job they’re elected to do.