Community First! Village

Believe in Goodness

ABoR and MLF members announcing our partnership

This year the Austin Board of Realtors Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of our organization, has begun a 10-year partnership with the Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ master planned development of Community First! Village in northeast Austin, as well as announcing our $1 million pledge to the community — ABoR’s largest donation ever!

As a member of the foundation’s Housing Committee, I was privileged to be on site earlier this month for the press conference announcing the partnership and to take a guided tour of this amazing community.  I was, of course, aware of the development but had never been out in person to actually see it or to meet any of its residents until I took the tour — and wow!!  — it blew my socks off and that is honestly putting it mildly!

So what is Community First! Village, you ask?  The the best explanation is taken directly from their website:

Community First! Village is a 51-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. A development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, this transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.

Mi casa es su casa

(To get a real sense of this community, the genuine good it does and its vision for mitigating homelessness long-term, this video tells the story better than I ever could.  I really want to encourage everyone to take 5 minutes to watch it — it’s beautifully done and, truly, incredibly inspiring.)

The 3-D printed Welcome Center

Our tour started off at what will become the village’s Welcome Center, a 500 square foot 3D-printed structure (Yep, 3D-printed: you read that right — click the link to see shots of its amazing interior!) which is the first of a series of 3D-printed structures planned for the community.  We got to see the printer itself (it was wildly impressive, though for proprietary technology reasons we were not allowed to take pictures of it), as well as three fully-printed micro-homes for residents that were in the midst of getting their finishing touches taken care of.

Tiny house at Community First! Village

In addition to the 3-D printed homes, other dwelling options at the village include tiny homes, RVs and canvas-sided cottages.  The village is beautifully laid out, with much attention paid to making it aesthetically pleasing as well as functional, making use of a lot of native plants for landscaping, wide stone and gravel walking paths, and plenty of communal areas for recreation and socializing, which is part of what helps foster a real sense of community.  There are 24/7-available commercial-style community kitchens for residents who choose dwellings that don’t come with a full kitchen of their own, as well as clean and safe community shower areas for the use of residents who prefer smaller units without those features.

A community kitchen, one of 7 on site

That sense of community — of family, of belonging — is at the heart of the success of Community First! Village.  The residents don’t just have a roof over their heads, which God knows is crucial, but they have a home, they become part of a family.  They take an active role in caring for the community and caring for each other, and there is a palpable sense of pride in this to be found when chatting with the residents.  There are quiet areas to sit and chat or just to contemplate life interspersed throughout the village, as well as a communal firepit area, a lovely remembrance garden for residents who have passed, a Wellness and Respite Center, community library, and so much more!

Other notable ventures in the village include an outdoor theater with movie nights that are open to the general public (partnering with Austin’s iconic Alamo Drafthouse, the Community Cinema presents free weekly screenings throughout the year) — and the volunteer-operated Community Grille is all over the concessions!

Need your brakes fixed? They got you covered!

The village works toward the goal of being self-sustaining. On site there is a fantastic community organic farm with gorgeous produce I found myself envious of!  Residents can spend time working at the garden in addition to several on-site, for-profit enterprises, including a full service car care garage with two bays, a beauty salon, a full service screen printing operation, a blacksmithing shop producing excellent metal works, a wood-working shop, an art house for  creative expression featuring painting and pottery making (and more!) as well as an on-site shop selling these handmade wares — there are even vacation rentals to be booked through Airbnb! (Seriously, y’all, click on the link above and check out how perfect and cute these rentals are; I would totally stay here!!)

Residents are paid living wages for their work at the community and its enterprises, and they pay rent for their lodgings.  They are able to attain/regain a sense of purpose, of contributing to a community and a greater good.

And the residents there are thriving!  The village has become a model for a handful of other such communities slowly springing up around the globe.  (Please watch some of the embedded videos, because the residents tell such poignant stories; they are truly heartwarming to see!)

If it’s not obvious, I came away from my visit to Community First! Village with my passion ignited and my sense of pride in ABoR’s involvement in this truly amazing endeavor absolutely overflowing!  There are so many opportunities for volunteering at the village and through Mobile Loaves & Fishes, and I really want to encourage anyone so inclined to do exactly that — or to pay a visit as a customer to any of their businesses and spend some money there!

If you’d like more information on any of this or are looking for ways to volunteer at the community, or to take a tour, please click on this link.  I plan to post regular updates about the village and its progress or any cool events happening, but please don’t wait for me — spread the goodness on your own!



Setting Records

Is this another housing bubble?

In case you don’t happen to be regularly clicking on my About Real Estate page for market updates (or my Facebook page, or otherwise following along), I’m re-posting this EYE-POPPING headline I put up earlier from the most recent Central Texas Housing Market Report put out by the Austin Board of Realtors: in May we reached an ALL-TIME HIGH of $1.2 BILLION (yep, you read that correctly — that’s Billion with a big, fat B) in home sales!

From the report:

“Coupled with rising home prices, this recent surge in home sales activity made May 2017 the highest-grossing month for Central Texas real estate in the region’s history. For the first time this year, single-family home sales dollar volume topped $1 billion ($1,234,217,617) in a single month within the five-county area, which is an increase of 18.4 percent from May 2016.”

(And this figure excludes most new home construction, which is similarly experiencing phenomenal growth.   New home construction in Austin is at its highest level since 2007.)

This is obviously very exciting news for sellers.  But on the flip side, this trend may be prompting you to ask a very reasonable question:  Is this another real estate bubble which might burst in spectacularly messy fashion?  We all remember what the country went through less than a decade ago when that housing bubble burst.

So is this another bubble?

The short answer, in my humble opinion, is no.  Or at least not in the way it was in 2008-2010; it’s not a bubble created by a whole host of factors which created an artificial inflation of the market, as was the case back then.

The longer answer should include what is a driving force for this increase: job growth.  (Or as my broker like to say: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!)  Austin’s current job growth rate of 2.9% puts us in place as the 10th fastest growing major metro area in the country.

As reported in the Austin Jobs Postings Report for May, unemployment is at 3.2% (nationwide we are at 4.3%) and more jobs are coming; several companies have announced expansion plans in the area.  To quote from the report:

“The U.S. News & World Report named Austin as the “Best Place to Live in the U.S.” in 2017.  Savills calls Austin “one of the 22 Cities at the Forefront of Global Tech” while SmartAsset named Austin as one of the “10 Best Cities to Raise a Family”.  Austin also comes in 3rd on Gallups’ “Good Jobs Rate” ranking based on the percentage of adults who work for an employer full-time.  Indeed ranked Austin No. 4 on its “25 Best Cities for Job Seekers” list.”

Dang — if I didn’t already live here I’d definitely want to move to Austin after reading all that!

So to sum it all up: with great livability, high consumer confidence, low unemployment, solid job growth and considerable planned expansion coming to the area, I’d say it’s likely that our housing market will remain strong for the foreseeable future. (Barring any big national economic crash, anyway — OH NO, I hope I didn’t just jinx us!) 😉

And finally, to any buyers sitting on the fence I’d say, “Come on in — the  water’s fine!”