Liberty Trails Townhomes promises affordable rental opportunities

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By SEAN SHAPIRO

Right now, Liberty Trails Townhomes looks like your standard construction site.

Large work vehicles spot the landscape of dirt, which to passersby on State Highway 29, has little resemblance to a community.

But by this time next year, it will be a perfect fit for Liberty Hill, said Owen Dundee, a development associate for Picerne Real Estate Group.

Picerne already manages a 200-unit complex in south Austin, but was looking to add to its properties and Dundee said Liberty Hill was a logical choice.

“First thing was the great school system there,” Dundee said. “We really think part of the growth is putting our properties in a place where education matters. The other part is we wanted to be on the path of growing, if you look up (US Highway) 183, Liberty Hill is really the next step for major growth and we want to be part of that.”

The property is expected to take 14 months to build and is scheduled to open in July 2015. Once it opens, the 100-unit complex will be a mixture of one, two, and three-bedroom townhomes, a majority of which will be reserved for low- to moderate-income tenants.

“People hear ‘government housing’ and that gets a negative connotation, but that’s not the case here,” said Liberty Hill City Manager Greg Boatright. “What this does for our community is it gives the workforce more affordable options. These people living here will be teachers, police officers, waiters, the people who live and work in Liberty Hill.”

Dundee said 75 of the 100 units would be classified this way, with the other 25 set at “market prices” to reflect the growing area.

“It’s going to be set aside for working class individuals and it’ll be just like any other apartment complex,” Dundee said. “You have to make a certain level of income, no misdemeanors or felonies, pass a background check. It’s going to be a safe and affordable community.”

Part of the reason for this is the tax credits Picerne was granted by the state to build the complex. Picerne applied for the tax credit allocation in 2013 and received the award later that year. It then sold the credits to PNC Bank, which is the key investor and funding the project.

It won’t be the first apartment complex operated this way in Liberty Hill. San Gabriel Apartments are managed the same way, but Boatright said they’ve been filled for years, limiting affordable rent options within the city.

“Right now, people’s only option is Leander or Georgetown, that’s as close as you can get,” Boatright said. “And those are such booming markets that those apartments aren’t affordable like they could be.

Once this new complex is complete, local companies can hire employees who don’t have to commute into town and the employees will be able to live comfortably.” Once the complex is competed, it will have a handful of full-time employees. But during development, Dundee said it is already generating business for the area.

“We’ve been bringing in job opportunities locally,” Dundee said. “$2.5 million of our construction budget has already been accepted and for work through local contractors, and many of their employees are local residents.”

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