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Nonprofit 'Dress For Success' leaves East Austin after rent increase

With Dress for Success leaving the area, many low-income women are at a disadvantage when seeking services.

AUSTIN, Texas — After almost 20 years at its East Austin location, Dress for Success (DFSA) has relocated to a new place at 3000 S. Interstate 35, Ste. 180, in South Austin.

The nonprofit is dedicated to helping women achieve economic independence. It strategically chose East Austin two decades ago because that is the area with the most minorities and low-income residents. 

However, Austin's hot rental market pushed them out. 

"Rent just kept rising and rising," said Mia Johns, Dress for Success' executive director. "We're in the really hip East Austin location, and our rent would have increased 38% if we had stayed."

It was an increase that didn't fit the nonprofit's tight budget. Johns said Dress for Success would rather invest in career development programs and resources for women instead of rent. 

The move wasn't an easy decision, and Johns knows this new location isn't as accessible as the other. 

"I think it will be a really large adjustment," she said. "It's, you know, this area is not as central and the bus stop is not as convenient."

She's still grateful to find a place to set up shop. 

"It's a little bit below market rates," she said, talking about the new cost of the space. "We just feel really fortunate to be in this location."

Five years from now, when the nonprofit's new lease is up, staff can only hope rent doesn't increase as much again. If not, plan B could go into effect. 

"Maybe having satellite locations or going completely mobile just so that we don't have to pay rent," Johns said.

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