Austin

Keeping housing costs low is front and center in Austin bond debate

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- It could be up to voters to decide whether they want to pay more in city taxes to help fund more than $800 million worth of Austin projects. The Austin City Council will vote on the bond proposal Thursday.

The $816 million bond would pay for transportation, libraries, flood prevention and affordable housing — a priority for most of the council members. 

Jennifer Hidrogo had her first child at 16 years old. When Hidrogo and her husband got divorced, she and her five children lived with her mother until she passed away.

"We don't know what people are going through. That's something I always try to remember, that you don't know what people go through," said Hidrogo.

She pays $450 a month for her family to live at a south Austin Foundation Communities affordable housing unit. Tax dollars keep the price low. She says she doesn't have any other options. 

"I have no idea. I feel for the people who have to be in shelters. I have no idea," said Hidrogo.

Now, Hidrogo works in the on-demand economy — Favor and Uber. Whether tax dollars should support more people like her, could soon be up to voters.

The majority of council members say more low-cost units are needed to keep people off of the street.

"The affordable housing crisis in this city is not new. Too many people are experiencing it every day," said Mayor Steve Adler Thursday morning at a rally and press conference prior to the city council meeting.

The bond program would allocate $161 million for housing projects:

  • $75 million to help people pay rent
  • $18 million to build low-income housing
  • $50 million to reserve land for future projects
  • $18 million to repair homes of poor Austinites

There's little opposition on the council. 

"These bonds are also helpful at creating new jobs," said Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo at the rally.

A similar bond previously raised taxes by just under 2 cents per $100 of value. That could mean an increase of $80 a year increase in property taxes for a house worth $400,000. 


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