Land Trust homes could go to displaced Austinites: ‘Right of Return’ preference policy for use with city-owned home sales – News

This home at 1018 Linden St. will be the first to be sold to a local with family ties for just under $200,000 under the city’s Right of Return program. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

The city of Austin is preparing to set up a “housing preference policywhich would give displaced Austinites a pathway back, selling city-owned homes at affordable prices to people who can prove their generational ties to the city.

Also often called a right of return policy, the framework of these sales has been in preparation for (what is now) the Housing and Urban Planning Department since 2018. Prospective buyers who can show that they or their immediate family members have been displaced by gentrification since 2000 will have an advantage in the selection process to sell these homes at an affordable price to buyers of a first house not earning more than 80% of Austin’s median family income, or $63,300 per year for two people. That makes the price of a two-bedroom just under $200,000; currently (as of March 2022), the median selling price of a home in Austin is $624,000, according to the Austin Council of Realtors.

These prices are possible by folding the 28 properties (currently) in the program into one community land trust, where the city (or a non-profit organization) owns the land but sells the structures to individuals. Most of those 28 properties are in council districts 1 and 6, with others in districts 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8. The first, located on Linden St., will open for applications later this month -this.

Housing and Planning intended to implement the policy in 2020, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. When applications for each property open, individuals will have 30 days to apply online. Candidates will be scored on factors such as income-to-debt ratio, generational ties to gentrified parts of Austin (as defined by the 2018 Uprooted by UT-Austin‘s Schools of Law and Architecture), and gross income. Qualified applicants will then be entered into a lottery, the randomly selected winners of which will be offered the opportunity to make the purchase.

A department spokesperson said H&P is working with the city’s legal and real estate departments to work out details; after the sale of the Linden Street home, the process will be reviewed and refined as needed before the next five properties go on sale in June.

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