Strategies to address homelessness, COVID-19 relief programs voted on at 1st 2021 council meeting


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s what to look out for on Austin City Council’s agenda this week.

Mayor Pro Tem

Austin City Council District 1 member Natasha Harper-Madison was elected Wednesday by her colleagues as Mayor Pro Tem of the council for the next year.

Several hotel updates

The city pushed forward with its motel conversion strategy to address homelessness.

The council approved the purchase of the Texas Bungalows & Suites on Burnet Road in north Austin for an amount to not exceed $6.7 million. It will be used as permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. A vote to purchase another hotel, Candlewood Suites on Pecan Park Boulevard in northwest Austin, was postponed.

Approved: Council voted to extend occupancy agreements for three of the city’s prolodges, which are converted hotels Austin has used exclusively to shelter people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

Approved: Speaking of prolodges, council approved an additional $187,962 for renovations to the Rodeway Inn. The property was purchased before the pandemic as part of the city’s motel conversion strategy.

Health South property vote – Approved

After multiple postponements, city council voted to allow the city to begin negotiations with a contractor to redevelop the former Health South facility.

The facility is located at Red River Street and East 12th Street, behind the old Brackenridge Hospital and across from the Sobering Center. While the valuable city-owned land could be developed for several commercial and residential uses, city council specifically directed that the site provide on-site affordable housing serving residents earning at or below 60% of area median family income. It has also been suggested as a temporary homeless shelter.

Coronavirus relief money programs

Approved: Council voted to update a contract with the Better Business Bureau to provide additional grants to small businesses that had previously applied to the Austin Small Business Relief Grant program. The additional $4.8 million would come from block grants and remaining CARES Act funding.

Approved: Another vote would authorize the Long Center to deploy $5 million from the Austin Live Music Venue Preservation Fund, to help preserve Austin live music venues who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines for the program were approved for the program back in October.

Testing for students – Approved

Council voted to allow the University of Texas to put mobile COVID-19 testing sites in Austin’s parks or the area outside its libraries. Mobile test sites are being requested in the West Campus, Mueller, Riverside, Hancock and Far West neighborhoods, according to Austin City Council documents.

Leadership lessons for city leaders – Approved

This action authorizes negotiations with 15 firms to provide leadership coaching services, beginning with $250,000 the first year. The city could pay up to $750,000 over the course of three years. The contracts will allow the city’s Human Resources Department to provide coaching on demand to city departments as the need for these services arise; city staff says it will support the enhancement of leaders within the city.

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