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3-D-Printed Houses Could Revolutionize Affordable Housing

Across the globe, 330 million families can’t find a decent affordable home to live in, and the problem is rapidly growing worse, according to a working paper issued last year by the World Resources Institute. As this 2015 Reuters story details, the slums of fast-growing cities in Latin America are filled with haphazard shacks built from scrap metal and wood, erected by impoverished urban dwellers.

But now, Austin, Texas-based construction technology startup ICON and San Francisco-based nonprofit housing organization New Story may have at least part of the answer to the world’s affordable housing problem. They’ve developed a house that can be built in fewer than 24 hours, for a projected cost of less than $4,000, using a special mobile 3-D printer that is designed to work in rugged conditions in developing countries.

ICON and New Story recently demonstrated the technology in Austin, by producing what reportedly is the first 3-D-printed house in the U.S. that’s up to code and fully permitted for people to live in.

"We wanted to build and meet the highest of U.S. housing codes to prove the technology has the ability to build safe, strong homes that can face hurricanes and earthquakes," New Story co-founder and head of product Matthew Marshall explains in an email.

Here’s a YouTube video about the project:

In an email, ICON co-founder Jason Ballard says that he and his partners, Alex Le Roux and Evan Loomis, began working together in early 2017, out of a mutual interest in finding a more efficient, less wasteful way to build affordable houses. "Approaches to construction hadn’t changed in so long it was like people had forgotten how to even imagine a different way," Ballard explains.

ICON and New Story subsequently joined forces through entrepreneurial accelerator Praxis, according to Marshall.

On-site Home Printing

The key breakthrough was development of the Vulcan 3-D printer, a gantry-style device that moves on rails to build the home, layer by layer.

"The key differentiator with what we are doing is that we are focused on whole-home site-printing," Ballard explains. "Many other companies working in the space print in warehouses, or only print pieces of a home that are assembled elsewhere. We believe this surrenders many of the basic advantages of 3-D printing. We have several patents submitted in hardware, software, and materials, and several more in process."

Ballard says the printer is lightweight and designed with minimal bells and whistles, making it rugged and dependable. The current model uses inexpensive basic concrete as a building material, but ICON is exploring the use of other materials in the future as well.

New Story’s Marshall says that concrete is more resilient and energy-efficient than building materials such as drywall and particle board, which are staples of home construction in the U.S. And by using 3-D printing to build a structure in layers, it’s possible to build with near-zero waste. The process also affords "tremendous design freedom – curves and slopes are no more challenging or expensive than straight, plumb lines."

Increased Speed and Lower Cost

While it took about 48 hours to print the demonstration house in Austin, the printer was running much slower than its potential speed, Ballard says. Once the houses are in production, it’ll be possible to create one in a day and possibly as little as 12 hours, with as few as two or three workers.

While the printed portion of the demonstration home cost $10,000, ICON and New Story have a goal of getting the production cost down to $4,000 for what Ballard says will be a "very basic, but solid and weatherproof, house."

New Story is currently trying to raise $600,000 for additional R&D, and another $400,000 to build 100 homes in El Salvador that would comprise the world’s first entirely 3-D-printed community. They’re hoping to begin construction in 2018. Medium has a more detailed explanation of the project.

Ballard says that 3-D printing is the way of the future in home building, and not just in developing countries. "I think it is a revolutionary paradigm shift in home construction that is better in every way: speed, cost, design freedom, energy efficiency, maintenance, resiliency, waste and comfort," he says.

"So whether you are building a house in El Salvador or in San Francisco our opinion is that it should be 3D-printed, at least if you care about cost, sustainability, and human well-being." He says that ICON plans to unveil additional projects in months to come.

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InspiringApps Opens a New App Development Office in Austin, TX

"As we considered potential locations for expansion, Austin quickly rose to the top of our list," said Brad Weber, President and CEO of InspiringApps. "The vibrant entrepreneurial, start-up, and tech community is energizing, and the University of Texas fosters a culture of learning. In many ways, Austin shares the innovative, communal atmosphere of Boulder that we love."

In addition to participating in the strong start-up community present in Austin, InspiringApps is excited to be in relatively close proximity to Dallas and Houston. Both of these major metropolitan areas are rich with high-tech Fortune 500 companies. "While technology already enables us to work with clients from across the nation, we are excited to be in closer proximity to other industry hubs," stated Weber. "We currently enjoy working with a range of clients, from start-ups to some of the world’s largest companies, and we expect that our new office in Austin will enable us to maintain that mix."

Despite its rapid growth, Austin has kept its roots and continues to draw talented people committed to maintaining a sustainable work-life balance. The company expects to benefit from the area’s diverse high-tech talent pool as it grows.

Those interested in a free consultation about their app development idea are encouraged to contact InspiringApps at info@inspiringapps.com.

About InspiringApps: InspiringApps is a leading mobile app design and development company that was founded in Boulder, Colorado. For over a decade, they have built beautiful and engaging apps, for all kinds of smart devices, that inspire how people live, work, and play. Their clients range from innovative start-ups to some of the biggest brands in the world.

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2018 Residential Real Estate Awards: The top Realtors, homebuilders in Austin – Austin Business Journal

More than 600 people attended Austin Business Journal’s 2018 Residential Real Estate Awards luncheon Thursday to cheer on the top-selling Realtors in the area as well as some of the best homebuilders — key players in Central Texas’ dogged pursuit to provide enough housing for the swelling population.

The event at the JW Marriott Austin honored Realtors in four categories as well as homebuilders in the custom, production, green and master-planned community categories.

Click on the slideshow attached to this story to get all the details about the top-performing Realtors — who combined to sell more than $2 billion worth of homes in 2017 — as well as the four builder winners. And check out in-depth Q&As with the winners below:

• ABJ’s top Realtors of 2018: Sijo Vadakkan racks up more than $100M sales

• ABJ’s top Realtors of 2018: Menard, Young set torrid sales mark

• ABJ’s top Realtors of 2018: Christopher Watters’ team ups its game for record-setting year

• ABJ’s top Realtors of 2018: Eric Bramlett at head of pack two straight years

• ABJ’s 2018 Residential Real Estate Awards: Austin’s king of custom homes is back

• ABJ’s 2018 Residential Real Estate Awards: Austin’s best new neighborhood is …

• ABJ’s 2018 Residential Real Estate Awards: Inside the operations — and houses — of one of Austin’s best homebuilders

• ABJ’s 2018 Residential Real Estate Awards: Get to know one of Austin’s greenest homebuilders

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Why Austin Can’t Support The Development It Knows It Needs

Selling affordable housing options to the Austin City Council is easy. Until it isn’t, as DMA Management learned when it came time for council to pare down the list of projects lined up for low-income tax credits.

Austin is facing some of the strongest pressure in the country from gentrification. Since 1990, Austin’s median family income has doubled, but the median home price has quadrupled, city demographer Ryan Robinson said in an Austin Chronicle interview.

A city audit out this week suggests most anti-gentrification ideas proposed in the last decade would have little or no direct impact on affordability in the city.

Voters have passed two affordable bond packages in Austin — one in 2013 and the other in 2015 — but the support was only a combined $120M.

Half of the projects supported by the bonds are aimed at very low income residents, households earning less than $24,300 a year. Meanwhile, the median rent on one-bedroom apartments has risen from $914 in 2012 to $1,239 in 2017.

Austin gets the most bang for its affordable housing buck through the state’s low-income housing tax credits. These competitive 9% tax credits give tax breaks to apartment investors, with developers agreeing to provide affordable rent on certain units for 10 years.

City Council had nine apartment projects to consider this year to endorse to the state for tax credits, but only funding for three, via a $4M allotment from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Two of the better-known applications pitted the city’s housing authority against DMA Management, the affordable housing consultants on Saltillo.

The Housing Authority of the City of Austin needs financing to raze and replace Chalmers Courts. DMA Management is proposing a far more modest affordable housing project called Talavera Lofts as a component of Saltillo. Saltillo is the master-planned community being built on 10 acres once owned by Capital Metro.

DMA Management CEO Diane McIver came away empty-handed from last week’s city council meeting after she withdrew the application for Talavera Lofts to receive low-income tax credits.

“I personally believe that probably there are not two more worthy developments in the city of Austin than Chalmers and Saltillo. And even if they were the highest scoring in the region, they cannot both get funded. So we are withdrawing our request on Item 20.”

That means Chalmers Courts will be sent on to a hearing at TDHCA. And Talavera Lofts, despite its affordability, is now in limbo.

Chalmers Courts and Talavera Lofts are in the same neighborhood. The same schools and bus routes serve both projects. But the Chalmers plans would raze one of the oldest housing projects in the country and triple the number of affordable housing units, while Talavera Lofts is a much smaller apartment project at the Saltillo rail station.

Chalmers Courts, built in 1939, is a 158-unit cinder block and brick apartment complex spread across a little under 8 acres. The units have no central air, no washer and dryer connections and only one bathroom in each unit. The buildings, for all intents and purposes, are at the end of their useful life.

And, for the first time, HACA has access to the private capital market financing for Chalmers through Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program. That designation does not come with money, but it does come with permission to access the private equity market, HACA Executive Director Sylvia Blanco said.

"Previously, public housing authorities could not carry debt on their properties," Blanco said. "This designation allows a housing authority to take on debt. And that’s sorely needed on this property."

Chalmers would be vacated and rebuilt, block by block, in three phases. The new project would have 400 units, with proper amenities and a fuller range of affordable housing levels, Blanco said.

That was compelling enough to bring Chalmers Court residents to multiple council meetings. Organizer Karen Thompson of ADAPT, a disability rights group, blasted other developers, saying none of them could offer units at the level of affordability HACA could, and had, at Chalmers Courts.

"You know you can count on them to continue, not just use the money for a little while and then those places disappear over time," Thompson said. "You know they’re going to deliver in a much bigger way than the other project is because there’s a lot more units involved."

City staff had no problem choosing Chalmers over Talavera. Chalmers Courts, one of the three oldest subsidized housing projects in the country, is considered to be "deeply affordable," aimed at some of the lowest-income residents in Austin. Average income on the property is $11K a year.

Why couldn’t both get funding?

The so-called “two-mile rule” prohibits the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs from awarding tax credits to properties within 2 miles of each other in the same year. Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill passed last session that would have lifted a population cap and allowed Talavera and Chalmers to exist side by side.

“You know, this situation was very unfortunate. We knew that we had two excellent projects in my district, District 3, and unfortunately the governor was angry at us and decided to veto that bill,” Council member Pio Renteria said last week. “It just broke my heart because I know that there’s such a big need to bring in more affordable housing in my district.”

Council blessed the plans of eight developers at last week’s meeting, two of which have already dropped out of the running because the portion of the tax credit allotted to Austin — about $4M out of a $66M statewide pool — is likely to cover no more than three projects.

The picture for future funding looks grim. City housing officials said recent corporate tax cuts in the federal tax overhaul will put a dent into the low-income tax credit market, making access to the remaining credits even more valuable.

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Downtown Austin WOW Houses: Austin Living At Its Finest

AUSTIN, TX — This gorgeous Red Bud Island home boasts incredible Austin views and a spectacular interior with luxurious design finishes. Nestled amidst one of Austin’s most ideal locations, this 4.4 acre home is surrounded by a gorgeous and lush landscape. With spectacular attention to detail, the home’s interior is elegant and inviting and features amazing space ideal for entertaining friends and family. You’ll want to check out this phenomenal home and see the best that Austin has to offer.

Price: $11,500,000Square Feet: 9716Bedrooms: 6Bathrooms: 7 Full and 2 Half BathsBuilt: 1998

Features: Perched high upon a prominent cliff above Lady Bird Lake’s Red Bud Island, this absolutely stunning 9,990SQ FT, 6BR, 9BA Mediterranean home offers some of the most enviable views in all of Austin. Sumptuous mahogany floors, plaster walls, Carrera marble, high barreled ceilings, 4-FP & an amazing attention to detail – all sublimely tucked within 4.4 private, lushly-landscaped acres w/lake access.

This listing originally appeared on realtor.com. For more information and photos, click here.

AUSTIN, TX — Perhaps one of the most spectacular homes listed in the Austin market, this home is sleek, sophisticated, and truly a work of art. Boasting over 5,400 square feet of modern and open living space, this home has incredible panoramic views of the Austin skyline and Lake Austin. A must see, you’ll want to schedule a private showing to see this beautiful home in the heart of Austin.


Price: $8,900,000Square Feet: 5428Bedrooms: 4Bathrooms: 4 Full and 1 Half BathsBuilt: 2017

Features: This is "Bud’s Place". Designed by Dick Clark FAIA, built by Jon Luce. This home has it all. Imagine 58′ of floor to ceiling glass in the main living/dining/kitchen that slides away and opens to an outdoor oasis featuring the most breathtaking pool imaginable. Only the finest finishes too numerous to list. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own the perfect home on the perfect site.

This listing originally appeared on realtor.com. For more information and photos, click here.

AUSTIN, TX — This Rollingwood home offers a classic and timeless design that’s both elegant and inviting, and features gorgeous finishes throughout. Situated minutes from Zilker Park, downtown ATX, and some of Austin’s best restaurants, this home has everything you’re looking for and more.

The home’s Spanish-style design features a bright and open floor plan and boasts more than 8,300 square feet of pristine living space. With great attention to detail, this home’s interior offers luxury design accents such as white oak floors and spectacular skydeck.

Price: $6,400,000Square Feet: 8393Bedrooms: 5Bathrooms: 5 Full and 3 Half BathsBuilt: 2012

Features: Located in one of Austin’s most sought-after neighborhoods, Rollingwood. Spanish-influenced architecture meets your every wish w/hand scraped white oak floors, exposed ceiling beams, hand-crafted cabinetry & marble-wrapped surfaces. Other features include elevator, Skydeck & 5th bedroom w/separate entrance. Staycation every day on the flat, private 0.64-acre lot w/skyline views. Resort-style amenities.

This listing originally appeared on realtor.com. For more information and photos, click here.

Image via Shutterstock

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Orion buys Austin apartment property

Orion Real Estate Partners has acquired Austin-based Triple Crown 2 Apartments, an apartment community. No financial terms were disclosed.


LOS ANGELES and AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — L.A. based Orion Real Estate Partners (“Orion”) announced today that it has closed on the acquisition of Triple Crown 2 Apartments, a garden-style apartment community in Austin, Texas.

Built in 1973, the 199-unit property is located approximately 4.5 miles from The University of Texas at Austin, 5.5 miles from downtown Austin, and 6.5 miles from The Domain. Also within 1 mile of the property are the redevelopments of Austin Community College/Highland Business Center and Mueller Airport.

Triple Crown 2 is well-located to cater to an underserved workforce renter population that has been priced out of newer properties in the market. Orion plans to spend approximately $1.8 million to improve the property’s exterior and amenities and renovate the unit interiors.
CBRE Multifamily Capital provided an attractive 10-year fixed rate acquisition loan through the Fannie Mae Green Financing loan program. The Property Society will provide property management services on behalf of the venture.

Orion is actively looking to increase its exposure to affordable workforce housing assets in Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Portland due to strong demographic growth and solid multifamily market fundamentals.

About Orion Real Estate Partners: Orion Real Estate Partners is a private real estate investment firm that targets value-add multifamily assets in Western US markets with strong demographics and job growth. Utilizing proven institutional processes to source and manage investments, we identify assets with capital and operational re-positioning opportunities to provide attractive returns for our investors. Orion, together with its affiliates, currently has a portfolio of 835 units in Denver and Austin. For more information, please visit: http://orionrep.com/

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