Grants available to remodel apartment buildings

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If you’re a landlord or owner of a contracting company based in Austin, the Oak Park Regional Housing Center wants to help you remodel your apartment building.

The Austin Ascending Project began earlier this year to promote Austin as a desirable community where people of all races can live together and value each other.

The grant program offers landlords with two- to four-unit buildings up to $4,000 in grants per unit. But the unit must be vacant, according to application guidelines available on the project’s website.

And contracting companies must be based in Austin to participate to ensure the funds stay within the community, said Jessica Hartshorn, an intern at the Oak Park housing center.

“We don’t want outside contractors who live somewhere else to be doing the work and then leaving and taking the money out of the community,” Hartshorn said.

The project is funded by an Austin Works Grant provided through the HOPE Fair Housing Center, a Chicago organization dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination. The purposes of the funds are to support revitalization efforts in neighborhoods with vacant, abandoned or foreclosed properties.

Shamaya Mobley owns a three-unit building located in the 1800 block of North Luna. With one unit completed under the Austin Ascending Project, Mobley has already leased the space to a new tenant and hoping to gain approval for funding of a second vacant unit.

“(My tenant) is very happy, and I hope she is a longstanding,” Mobley said.

Her newly remodeled space had been vacant for nearly three months before it was approved for grant money through the project, Mobley said. Only minor enhancements had been made before renovations, and it took two months to complete the whole project, she said.

The community will benefit from the initiative, Mobley said, and tenants will take more pride in where they live, which will cause a ripple effect.

“It will build the community up,” she said.

Letrusia May is owner of Community Residential Solutions, a contracting company based in Austin that was approved to remodel two units.

May said she hopes the program causes others to invest in their community as well.

“It can have a domino effect for the whole block, and then you’ll have a better looking block,” said May, who grew up in Austin who owns several properties in the area.

“There are a lot of property owners in the area, and sometimes they can’t afford to keep their properties up,” she said.

And although May currently lives outside Austin, her parents and sister live in the area. She said because it’s important that value be brought to the community, she will continue to invest in Austin.

Landlords interested in applying for an Austin Ascending Project grant must match funds with an additional investment that is equal to or exceeds one-quarter of the grant amount requested.


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