Bastrop affordable housing project meets mostly opposition at hearing

Mary Huber Bastrop City Manager Lynda Humble speaks in favor of an affordable housing apartment complex, The Preserve at Hunters Crossing, at a public hearing on Jan. 30 held by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. MARY HUBER/BASTROP ADVERTISER

Dozens of Hunters Crossing homeowners voiced strong opposition at a public hearing Tuesday to a planned affordable housing apartment complex slated to go up across the street from the subdivision off Texas 71 in Bastrop.

Among their concerns were the potential for increased crime and traffic congestion, exacerbated drainage problems and a drop in property values. Some homeowners pleaded with developer MacDonald Companies to move the project to another site.

“You are putting something so close to a neighborhood of houses,” Hunters Crossing resident Kurt Green said. “I just have to think if you were to stick this project somewhere else, you probably wouldn’t have resistance tonight.”

The Preserve at Hunters Crossing is slated to go up at the corner of Home Depot Way and Hunters Crossing Boulevard and will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments priced between $785 and $1,078 per month without utilities. They will be reserved for tenants who make 60 percent of the average median income for the Austin area, or $48,840 a year for a family of four.

MacDonald Companies has applied to receive low-income housing tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to help finance the project, which if approved will translate to a $828,000 tax break each year for the next 10 years, totaling $8.3 million, the department said.

The agency will decide at a board meeting Feb. 22 whether to approve the application.

At Tuesday’s hearing, company president Justin MacDonald said whether the project is approved or not, he intends to build an apartment complex at the site at 210 Hunters Crossing Blvd. — it’s just a matter of whether the units will be affordable or not.

“This property has been zoned for multi-family apartments since before any of your houses were built,” MacDonald said. “There will be apartments on this site someday. If they are not affordable, there will still be apartments on this site someday. I am sorry if your Realtors didn’t disclose that to you, or you didn’t see that when you bought your house.”

He said if the application is rejected, he will rent units at the market rate.

“We do feel that there is a significant need in Bastrop for more housing,” MacDonald said.

A recent study by nonprofit Bastrop County Cares showed the region has a shortage of available housing at all prices and that affordable housing is especially lacking, which prompted the City Council in November to pass a resolution supporting the granting of federal tax credits for the apartment project. City Manager Lynda Humble said Tuesday that Bastrop is “in desperate need of workforce housing.”

“We appreciate MacDonald Companies commitment to safe, affordable housing, which we believe should be an entitlement not a privilege,” Humble said. “I appreciate everybody who says ‘not in my backyard,’ but just so we are clear, Bastrop does have public housing — and it is in my backyard. I live two blocks from public housing. Many of our downtown residents live within four houses to a block of public housing. They make good neighbors, and they are maintained well.”

But that did not persuade many at the meeting.

“I understand that everybody wants to have affordable housing,” resident David Patterson said. “It brings in gang bangers, drug dealers, drive-by shootings, home invasions. I have seen it happen.”

MacDonald Companies has ensured it has zero-tolerance for drugs and crime. The apartments will have on-site management and require tenants to submit to criminal background checks and show ability to pay. Government assistance will not count toward a resident’s proof of income, and though the apartments will accept Section 8 vouchers, management will not solicit them, he said.

Despite assurances, most people who attended Tuesday’s meeting — 30 of 42 — said they were against the project. Public comments will be accepted by email to the Texas Department of Housing and Public Affairs through Feb. 13.

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