Plan for AISD Apartments

Anita Ferrales Coy Facility to Turn Into Affordable Housing Units
Plan for AISD Apartments

The rising cost of living expenses in Austin and the lack of support for district employees have forced the Austin Independent School District (AISD) to address the situation. Thus, the 18-acre Anita Ferrales Coy Facility, which is currently home to the district’s Alternative Learning Center (ALC), will be torn down and replaced with two new apartment buildings with a combined total of 500 units. The housing options will be marketed to AISD staff starting in 2025, according to the district. 

The Coy facility, located on Gonzales Street and Shady Lane in East Austin, was brought to the attention of the AISD School Board a few years ago as an underutilized space, and in November 2023, the district approved the renovation of the property to build affordable housing for AISD employees. The lot will include two buildings with 250 units each and a newly renovated ALC.  The buildings’ construction will be spread out with the first one’s construction starting in the fall of 2025. To manage this project, AISD chose a national consulting group to work with called the NRP Group, who appointed Nick Walsh, the Vice President of Development at the company, to take charge.

“Austin ISD issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) …  [that] they marketed to other companies like my company that specialize in building multifamily housing and specialize in this fix,” Walsh said. “There was an opportunity for a best and final offer where they asked some additional questions. And from that, they selected my company, NRP, as the finalist company. And then it was up to the school board and the trustees, [who] officially confirmed our selection at the November board meeting.”

The decision to renovate the area occurred after continuous discussions with community members in the area and AISD staff members who felt they needed extra support. As cost-of-living is one of the most pressing issues for Austinites, the district felt that having a reduced-rent housing option was important in supporting their employees and something they heard many requests for from AISD staff. Jeremy Striffler, the Director of Real Estate at AISD, described the process AISD went through to ensure that housing was what the community wanted.

“We engage [with] the community via various meetings, public surveys, as well as talking with our teachers and staff, and what consistently came up over and over again was the lack of attainable housing in the city of Austin,” Striffler said. “And what has been very challenging for, not only the district but for lots of public entities, services, … is that it’s been very challenging to keep up with the cost of living, to keep wages increasing at the same rate as the cost of living. And so this is an attempt to use land that we already own to address that need.”

EXPENSES SOAR | The Anita Ferrales Coy Facility, currently hosting AISD’s Alternative Learning Center, will be torn down to create housing opportunities for AISD teachers and staff. The renovated facility will be home to two new apartment complexes with a total of 500 housing units and a renovated ALC. (Lily Wilkerson)

As one of the main aspects of the project is to reduce staff members’ expenses, about half of the apartments for rent will have income restrictions put in place. The restrictions will align with the median family income limits set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

“So [HUD] says that for anyone who spends more than 30% of their annual household income on housing-related expenses is cost burden,” Striffler said. “And so the rents will be capped so that they do not exceed 30% of anyone who’s renting, who is in one of the income-restricted apartments, does not exceed 30% of their income.” 

As for the ALC, AISD intends to keep it on the property but make the size of the building smaller and design it to fit specifically to the facility’s needs. The center will be across the property from the two apartment buildings and will be separated by its fencing and parking lot. Additionally, AISD intends to add more roadways to accommodate increased traffic and circulation for people and neighbors around the facility.

“[The ALC] building was never designed for an alternative center and ALC has moved around over the last decade or so from some different facilities,” Striffler said. “And so this really gives us the opportunity to design a space that is tailored towards them. There’s a lot for personalized learning at the alternative learning center. So, I think this will be a real step forward for that program and it really puts the emphasis on those students and making sure they get what they need.”

Although this project is a way of combating staff members’ steadily increasing expenses, some see this as a distraction from the real pressing issue. Education Austin, the teacher’s union in AISD, hopes the buildings don’t act as a substitute for paying their teachers more. Ken Zarifis, the Co-President of the union, talked through his concerns surrounding this project from the union’s perspective.

People who work in schools should make a wage that would allow them to live in this city without getting special housing discounts.

— Ken Zarifis

“What we have is fundamentally a deeper problem,” Zarifis said. “People who work in schools should make a wage that would allow them to live in this city without getting special housing discounts.”

The teacher’s union, which has been around since 1999, sees that this improvement should make things better in the future. To the union, the project shows the district’s promise to support its employees and hopes everyone recognizes that.

“But at the end of the day, we want this to happen,” Zarifis said. “We want to have those types of investments. And that the district is trying to make it for all employees. If we can make sure that we’re doing that, then that’s certainly a step in the right direction.”

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