Erica Leak

Erica Leak
Manager of Housing Policy and Planning
City of Austin, Texas

Favorite Music

Erica says her favorite music is a good book, like “The Three-Body Problem,” science fiction by Cixin Liu. Also listens to a lot of news, like NPR’s Morning Edition, so we’ll remind you its theme song.

Challenge

Austin not only has a serious shortage of affordable housing, but no central clearinghouse for low-income renters to find housing. And often, before they can find it, their housing vouchers expire.

Solution

A year ago, the City of Austin and the housing authority joined with a public/private partnership called Austin CityUP (the UP standing for words in their motto: “technology for urban progress”) to develop an app that presents affordable housing options in real time. The group is currently fleshing out a prospectus, which must overcome hurdles like incentivizing landlords to provide immediate data. Target users include families that move in the middle of a school year (the app would provide options within specific school districts so kids don’t have to change schools). Erica and her team are searching for vendors and the city may issue an RFP in the near future.

Lessons Learned

Matching households that need housing with units available is highly complex in a city with very low vacancy rates. Austin has completed its first Strategic Housing Blueprint, which sets a goal to create 60,000 affordable housing units at or below 80% of the median family income ($65,000 for a family of four) over the next 10 years.

Erica’s Job

Leads a team focused on policies, regulations, and legislation that can help create or fund more affordable housing. In her current job for three years after spending seven years in the planning department. Before that, she worked at a residential architecture firm. She says she decided to move into public policy and planning when she was designing closets for clients that were larger than her apartment at the time.

Erica’s Background

Grew up in Springfield, MO (“it could be where the Simpsons are from”). Then University of Missouri, University of Washington in Seattle, and UC Berkeley. In Austin a dozen years, lives with husband and 6-year old son. Loves finding new ways to cook fresh produce she gets from the city’s Farm to Work Program that delivers from local farmers. Likes to read, and get out on Austin’s greenbelt.

Connect with Erica!

Erica.Leak@AustinTexas.gov

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