AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s what we’re watching at the Austin City Council meeting Thursday.
Proposed VMU Changes – Postponed to June 9
Council members postponed the vote on an amendment that would create a new category — VMU2 — which would allow up to 30 feet of additional height on lots with Vertical Mixed Use zoning.
These vertical mixed-use developments are buildings with apartments on top and commercial space below.
This density bonus program allows developers to gain height in exchange for designating affordable.
Thus far, over 15,000 total units — with over 1,800 protected as affordable — have been developed under the VMU program.
“This amendment would require more affordable units at deeper levels of affordability, in exchange for allowing additional building height through a public process,” Austin City Council member Ann Kitchen said.
VMU2 has the potential to deliver more medium-density housing while building on one of the most successful bonus tools for affordable housing in the city’s toolbox.
Guaranteed Income Pilot Programs – Postponed
This proposed guaranteed income pilot program was recommended by the city’s Reimagining Public Safety task force.
It would launch a year-long initiative that would give $1,000 a month to 85 families or individuals who are facing extreme financial hardships.
The program — similar to more than 50 other cities around the country — is meant to help the most vulnerable in the community, such as families on the brink of eviction, and people who have recently found themselves on the street.
Mayor Steve Adler is a proponent of the program, highlighting the high costs brought about by treating and caring for Austin’s homeless population.
“It’s really expensive for our community when that happens,” Adler says. “Maybe if we can give somebody some assistance just before that happens, we can keep them in their homes.”
Austin City Council included the $1.1 million in funding for the initiative in last summer’s budget.
On Thursday, the council said it will discuss the measure in executive session but would postpone the vote for two weeks.
East Austin’s African American Cultural District
Council will update and clarify documents that guide future development along two vital corridors in the heart of Austin’s Black Cultural District.
Following decades of disinvestment, this designation has been years in the making.
The urban renewal plan is aimed at creating a more vibrant, diverse and affordable district.
These agenda items are sponsored by council member Natasha Harper-Madison, who’s gathered feedback from more than 500 area residents on features that will be added in the area.
Austin Water Staffing – Approved
Local leaders moved to allocate an additional $1.4 million for Austin Water.
They also allocated 16 additional employees for AWU to increase support at water treatment plants.
This comes in light of the city’s recent boil water notices and zebra mussels issue.
Food Insecurity Accessibility – Approved
Council member Vanessa Fuentes brought forward an agenda item that aims to increase bus route frequencies in food desert regions of Austin.
The partnership between the city and CapMetro would develop maps on public transit lines for healthy food location stops along with adding bus routes connecting residents to healthy food locations.
This idea came from a group of students at St. Edward’s University, who organized the initiative after uncovering an alarming pattern of food insecurity in Austin.
According to their research, Austin includes 33 different low-income areas — classified by the USDA as food deserts — where at least 500 people live at least a half-mile from a grocery store.
The initiative also includes declaring April 21 as Austin Food Insecurity Awareness Day.