Some Austin City Council members say they want affordable housing available in every council district.
At Tuesday’s Fair Housing Summit, Council Members Delia Garza, Pio Renteria and Greg Casar revealed an initiative called Housing Justice Agenda. It includes putting out to a vote a $250 million to $300 million bond that’ll go toward building affordable housing.
“Housing is ridiculous here,” said DeAntonio Brown. He told KXAN he spends close to half of his income on rent. “There should be some affordable housing, reasonable housing.”
When we checked with Austin’s Housing Authority, President and CEO of the agency Michael Gerber told us, “We’re about 44,000 units today behind where we really need to be. And over the next 10 years, we’re going to be about 135,000 units behind where we need to be.”
He said the city is making progress, but it’s a slow one. “We have more than 10,000 people sitting on our waitlist for public housing today,” he said. “We haven’t opened up our waitlist in 3 years.”
According to the city’s open data portal, most of Austin’s affordable housing is located in central, south or east Austin.
Gerber said the city needs “all types of housing in all parts of town for all types of people.”
Council Member for District 6 Jimmy Flannigan said he agrees. “People who used to live in central Austin move out to District 6, then from District 6 to Cedar Park, then from Cedar Park to Leander.”
Many people also said the challenge is, however, a negative connotation associated with the term “affordable” or “low-income” housing sometimes creates pushback.
“They’re scared because of the stereotypes,” Brown said. “‘Oh, I don’t want this kind of person in my neighborhood.’ Don’t look at the person. Look at the character. You got to give a person a chance to be successful.”
“Mixed income communities are a benefit to people who live there, no matter your income level,” said Flannigan.
When asked about other council members pushing for a $300 million bond for housing, Flannigan said, “I told my constituents I won’t support any bond that raises their taxes.”
City officials say at this point, the city’s bond committee hasn’t made any decisions yet on the total amount or exactly what items will be included. They told us the discussion to hammer out the details will happen over the next few months.