A Decade Plus of Work (And Counting): The Mueller Shared Equity Program

This is the third in a series of blog posts from Cornerstone Partnership’s CHIP grantees. They’ll be reflecting on their experiences seeking to implement best practices, build capacity and scale their long-term affordable homeownership programs. This post is brought to you by Kelly Weiss from Homebase based in Austin, Texas. 

I have been involved with the City of Austin’s Robert Mueller Municipal Airport (RMMA) Redevelopment since 2004, advocating for long-term, affordable, and sustainable housing. The former municipal airport is now a 750-acre, sustainable, mixed-use, mixed income, green-built development including LEED-rated commercial buildings and more than 1,000 single family homes rated in the pioneering Austin Energy Green Building program. A driver for economic development in a historically disadvantaged area, the Mueller Redevelopment area is projected to be home to more than 13,000 residents and 13,000 jobs and add more than $1.3 billion in property value to the tax rolls by the project’s completion.

An extremely important aspect of the Mueller Redevelopment is that it has continually promoted opportunity and empowerment for lower and middle-income residents of our community. Twenty-five percent of all housing must be affordable at no more than 80% of Median Family Income (MFI) for homeownership and no more than 60% MFI for rental, which is made possible by public-private partnerships, including funding from City of Austin General Obligation Bonds and tax credits. Currently, the Mueller Redevelopment area has over 500 affordable homes and rental units. The affordable housing is interspersed throughout the development and indistinguishable from the market-rate housing.

The Mueller Redevelopment is thriving, and HomeBase continues to create and maintain affordable housing — and we are creating a lot, at a scale that has real, recognizable, noticeable impact. There is a new community, though part of an existing neighborhood. There are new neighbors, old neighbors, and a new community where an abandoned airport sat for years.

The first Mueller Affordable Home was sold in February 2008 to a teacher at a local elementary school. I run into him at the Home Depot or the HEB [local grocery store] every now and then. Two of our affordable homeowners met each other through the Mueller Affordable Homes program, and they were married several years after — one of our first “resales.” Many of our first-time homebuyers are now first-time and second-time parents, and the kids are getting big. All of these show that a decade worth of planning has begun to do exactly what we were aiming for – creation of a thriving neighborhood, complete with strong community relationships.

To date, the Mueller Affordable Homes program has zero foreclosures, and 29 affordable homes have been repurchased at an affordable price by an affordable buyer. On completion, an estimated 550 affordable homes and 1,000 affordable rental units will fill an important gap in the Austin housing market.

The Mueller Redevelopment is a model for other communities to provide opportunity and to empower lower income communities, and the Mueller Foundation and HomeBase are critical to its success. It has provided HomeBase the opportunity to be the first non-profit in Texas to utilize a shared equity homeownership model on a large scale. HomeBase continues to replicate shared equity housing in Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) projects and in other communities.

As an indicator of the pioneering efforts at Mueller, HomeBase was selected as a Cornerstone Homeownership Innovation Program (CHIP) grantee and is providing “best practice” white papers and contributing to national publications to educate others. In addition, HomeBase is working with the Mueller Foundation to capture data for a long-range study on the impacts of shared equity housing, in conjunction with the Urban Institute and the Social Innovation Fund.

As life has gone on, I can see Mueller and the surrounding neighborhood changing for the better. The runways are now roads. People live in what used to be a zero-population census tract. However, there are a lot of Austinites who have never been to Mueller – they still don’t go east that often or have no reason to go down, what is ironically named, Airport Blvd., even though there is no longer an airport there. So only time can tell if the goals of the Mueller Redevelopment will succeed, but for now, the future looks bright, and our pride is held high.

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HomeBase, an affordable housing non-profit, certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), provides financial products and services to working, elderly, and disabled families, as well as providing HUD-certified housing counseling to the public, serving over 1,000 households a year.

Mueller Foundation, a private Foundation established by Catellus, master developer of Mueller Redevelopment. The Mueller Foundation is charged with the long-term oversight and strategic planning to support their mission of supporting education, housing affordability, and open/green space and trails.

The Mueller Redevelopment, visit the website to learn more about the accomplishments of the Mueller Redevelopment and unique Mueller Plan.

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