Austin City Council to vote on additional funding for two hotels meant to house the homeless

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two hotels purchased by the City of Austin several years ago have not yet opened for their intended purpose of housing people who have experienced chronic homelessness. During next week’s city council meeting, additional funding and time could be committed to those projects.

KXAN has previously reported that Pecan Gardens, the former Candlewood Suites hotel in northwest Austin, will serve as permanent supportive housing for more than 70 homeless, elderly and disabled people under the eye of Family Eldercare.

That property has been empty since city council approved its purchase — using 2018 affordable housing bond dollars — in 2021. In June 2022, Austin City Council approved a contract with Family Eldercare to operate the property.

Homeless beds: Marshalling Yard opens ahead of schedule, Pecan Gardens sees delays

Documents said the delay comes after Family Eldercare “discovered significant issues with the structure of the building, including mold, drainage, and fireproofing issues.”

Former Candlewood Suites hotel property
The former hotel will become Pecan Gardens, which is set to house older adults in need of permanent supportive housing (KXAN Photo/Grace Reader)

Austin City Council could vote next Thursday to extend its contract with Family Eldercare until the end of March and to add an additional $2.6 million to the contract, according to council documents.

Dr. Aaron Alarcon, the CEO of Family Eldercare, told KXAN in August that they expect to be done with construction around January 2024 and to move people in shortly after. At that point, Alarcon said the building will look “like a home for them [residents], that is trauma informed, in a place that they can feel comfortable, where they can thrive.”

A group of people who live and work in the area — who call their opposition to the project ‘MOVE Candlewood’ — issued a statement about the possibility of a contract extension.

“It’s hard to believe MOVE Candlewood is about to enter year four of our push for a better solution for both our Pecan Park neighbors and the area’s homeless. We’ll still be fighting this expensive, ill-advised scheme in 2024 and urge the City Council to find a more suitable property and solution ASAP,” a spokesperson said.

While Pecan Gardens has garnered community attention — the subject of a now dismissed lawsuit and several protests from neighborhood groups — another hotel purchased around the same time has not faced as much pushback. But it, too, is experiencing construction setbacks.

“Additional funds are needed to complete the rehabilitation of the former hotel and include costs associated with electrical upgrades and construction price increases related to fencing, flooring, and landscaping,” council documents said.

The former Texas Bungalows Hotel and Suites, which is being turned into the Bungalows at Century Park, will provide 60 units for people who have a “disabling condition” and have experienced homelessness most of their lives. It will be operated by Integral Care and Volunteers of America will serve as property management.

A spokesperson for Integral Care said they expect to open in summer 2024. The City added that most of the exterior work on the hotel is complete “and some interior work has been done.” The City echoed the timeline provided by Integral Care.

“Upon completion, Bungalows at Century Park will have onsite social services, staffing 24 hours a day, onsite security, onsite laundry facility, and common gathering and community spaces. It is modeled after other successful Housing First programs across the country and Austin, including Integral Care’s Terrace at Oak Springs,” an Integral Care spokesperson said.

Integral Care will run that property alongside Volunteers for America Texas, who said to this point it has not received negative feedback from people living in the area as it works to get that property operational. She said they’re hoping to offer people a place of support and stability.

“I tell folks that people don’t come to live in our facilities, we come to work in their home,” said Angela King, CEO of Volunteers of America Texas.

The amendment before city council next Thursday could add just under $400,000 for renovations at that building, according to documents.

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