Austin City Council takes up tax relief, homelessness votes Thursday

Austin
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AUSTIN (KXAN) – Here’s what we’re watching ahead of this Thursday’s City Council meeting:

Homestead exemptions and tax rate: Approved

Council voted on several items that affect Austinites’ property taxes. Two of them are proposed changes to the homestead exemption. Council approved on first and second reading only Thursday to double the homestead exemption rate from 10% to 20%. For those 65 and older or those with disabilities, Council approved on consent to increase the tax relief from the exemption from $88,000 to $113,000.

Council also approved asking the city’s budget office to explore an 8% property tax increase next year. During Tuesday’s Work Session, council members were quick to say this was just a budget calculation, and the rate increase may not necessarily be as high as 8%. Normally, cities in Texas can only increase taxes by 3.5% a year – any increase beyond that would trigger a tax rate election. However, Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration allows cities to exceed that threshold for the next year.

MORE: Governor proposes plan to cap local property taxes

Help for permit backlogs: Approved on consent with direction

The city department that processes permit and plan review applications says it needs more help with the demand and is asking council to approve 41 new full-time positions. In a region where there is already tremendous growth year to year, the city’s permitting process has often been criticized by developers as slow and burdensome.

“We’re not able to meet our forecasted review times with the current staff we have,” said Denise Lucas, Director of Austin DSD.

According to the city’s website, residential intake processing delays are taking 7-10 business days longer than the department’s target goal. Commercial delays are taking an estimated 8 business days longer.

The Development Services Department also says residential permit volume is up 13.5% over the same time period last fiscal year, and up 16% from the same time period in fiscal year 2019. residential plan review volume is up 31% over this same time period in FY20.

Permit totals, Austin (Source: City of Austin)

The Department says it will not increase fees in next year’s budget to support the 41 positions.

Homeless services contract: Approved

A new contract would pay Integral Care to provide housing and services at the Texas Bungalows hotel, located at 13311 Burnet Road. City council agreed to purchase the hotel in January. Housing and services would be for people with disabilities who have also been chronically homeless. Council was going to take up this item on May 20, but it was postponed.

In council documents, staff refer to the “Texas Bungalow Permanent Supportive Housing program.” Last week the city told us the purchases of Texas Bungalows and Candlewood Suites were not finalized.

Fee waivers for homeless housing: Approved

Council voted to waive more than $4 million in development fees and infrastructure support for the next phases of Community First! Village, a community that provides housing for those coming out of chronic homelessness. The village currently houses more than 200 people, according to council documents.

The next two phases will add homes at two different sites. One of those sites is located on 51 acres near the current village on Hog Eye Road in far Northeast Austin. The other site will be 10 miles to the south at a 76-acre site on Burleson Road between McKinney Falls Parkway and U.S. 183.

According to council documents, one of the phases would add 500 homes and the other would add 800 homes.

Community First! was developed by the nonprofit Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

Rent Relief: Approved on consent

Council voted to accept $93,522 in grant funding from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Most of the money will go toward rental assistance for those financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and would be facilitated by the Austin Area Urban League.

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