An affordable housing development that will bring 135 new income-restricted apartments to Southeast Austin is moving forward after getting the go-ahead from the Austin City Council. On May 6, the council approved zoning changes for an 8-acre site at 2105 Parker Lane, where local nonprofit Foundation Communities plans to develop the family-oriented Parker Apartments. 

The council voted 10-0 to change its current zoning designation from family residence (SF-3) with approved civic use to multifamily medium density (MF-3), adding a required 50-foot setback on the north side of the property. Ward Memorial Methodist Church, which is no longer operational but owns the property, will partner with Foundation Communities to redevelop the site.

The majority of the units in the planned complex will have two or three bedrooms and will be available to households earning 60 percent or less than Austin’s median family income. Fourteen of the apartments will be reserved for families that have experienced homelessness. Plans also include community benefits such as tenant services, a learning center, and open public space, as well as preserving all heritage trees on the property. An office from which the church can continue its work with Justice for Our Neighbors, an immigration advocacy service, is also planned.

Developers initially pursued a MF4 zoning, a designation that allows for more density than needed for the apartments, to allow for more open space with heritage trees and a wildflower meadow, a parking lot, and ample room for residents, said a Foundation Communities representative speaking at the April 13 Planning Commission meeting. The organization’s executive director, Walter Moreau, said at the council meeting that MF-3, combined with participation in the city’s Affordability Unlocked program, could also work. While city staff supported MF-3 zoning, the commission voted at the April 13 meeting to recommend an MF-4 designation for the property.

While many neighbors from the area spoke in favor of the organization’s plan at that meeting, the recommendation was met with resistance from some, who were concerned in part that the MF-4 designation would allow projects with more density than Foundation Communities plans for the site should the Parker Apartments fall through. One-third of nearby property owners signed a petition objecting to it, which meant that an MF-4 designation would have needed a supermajority of City Council voting in favor of it in order to pass. (Petitions in such cases need signatures of at least 20 percent of property owners within 200 feet of the project to be valid. The percentage is determined by comparing total square footage owned by those signing the petition to the square footage of the properties located within the 200 feet.) 

Perhaps as a way of addressing those neighbors’ concerns, the council instead approved Councilmember Kathie Tovo’s motion for MF-3 zoning with a conditional overlay requiring the setback.