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Austin Community Foundation is helping to bring more affordable housing to South Lamar Boulevard in Austin, an area known for its proximity to renowned eateries, live music, and Zilker Park. Mary Lee Square, an affordable housing campus, will be redeveloped through a unique partnership to ultimately add more housing and community space for over 500 residents.

Foundation Communities and the Mary Lee Foundation, both local nonprofits that provide affordable housing services, are partnering to redevelop the eight-acre campus now named Lamar Square with affordable units for households at or below 60% of the area’s median income (about $60,480 for a two-person household). Many of the apartments in Lamar Square will be deeply affordable. The project includes rehabilitating about 150 existing units and building 400 new units.

A rendering of Lamar Square.

The Housing Accelerator Loan Fund, a new initiative of ACF that provides fast, flexible capital to affordable housing developers, is supporting Lamar Square by lending $2 million at a 2.5% interest rate to Foundation Communities for land acquisition. The loan will be repaid upon the start of construction.

“Our investment in Lamar Square through the Housing Accelerator Loan Fund underscores our dedication to creating sustainable housing solutions that meet the diverse needs of our region,” said Mike Nellis, CEO of Austin Community Foundation. “This project not only provides affordable housing but also fosters an inclusive community where residents can thrive and contribute to the vibrant culture of South Austin.”

Foundation Communities has a more than 30-year track record of building and managing affordable homes with free on-site support services for thousands of families, veterans, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. For 61 years, the Mary Lee Foundation has served adults with diverse needs so that they may develop a sense of dignity and self-worth, plus the skills necessary to socially integrate with and contribute to the community in which they live.

The Lamar Square project will be built in three phases and include office and park space. Estimated to be completed by 2027, Lamar Square will be home to families, single adults, and residents with disabilities. “We are excited to partner with Mary Lee to create a new community that will be designed for their clients and for new families in the heart of central Austin,” said Foundation Communities Executive Director Walter Moreau.

The updated campus will include:

  • A learning center for adult education, out-of-school youth programming, and fitness
  • On-site case management
  • Physical therapy and a day rehab center
  • A food pantry
  • Green space with family-friendly outdoor amenities

The Lamar Square project is one of nine developments recently awarded funds as part of the City of Austin’s Strategic Housing Blueprint, which aims to create 60,000 affordable housing units for households who earn less than approximately $60,000 a year. The City approved $5.4 million from the 2022 General Obligation Bonds for this redevelopment project.

Click here to learn more about the Housing Accelerator Loan Fund, including the research behind it, how it works, and ways to get involved.