AUSTIN (KXAN) — The much-anticipated redevelopment of the former Austin American-Statesman site will be put to a vote by city council on Thursday.
Preliminary plans for the nearly 19-acre planned unit development include high-rise hotels, offices and residential units spread throughout six towers.
Under the current agreement, the developer would also have to include affordable housing.
“We can actually get those affordable units mixed in with what, in this case, will very likely be luxury units,” District 9 councilmember Kathie Tovo said.
While clearing out a homeless encampment in the St. Johns neighborhood where 30 people were living, District 4 councilmember Jose ‘Chito’ Vela came up with a proposal to help those experiencing homelessness.
“Are we going to provide shelter for 54 people 10 years down the road when those units are ready to go or are we going to take that money and provide housing for potentially 200 people to get them off the street,” Vela said.
Vela has proposed the city instead allow the developer to “cash out” of the requirement by paying a fee. An approximated $20 million would then be funneled to the city’s HEAL initiative for homeless housing solutions.
“Housing the homeless to me is providing affordable housing to the community,” Vela said.
However, Tovo disagreed, as she believes requiring affordable housing is much more important.
“It’s much cheaper usually to pay a fee in lieu of creating those units there on sight,” Tovo said.
The Austin City Council previously put in place a goal of having 20% of new housing in the South Central Waterfront be affordable.
“The only way we’re going to get there is by making sure that there is affordable housing in each and every one of those developments,” Tovo concluded.
The council currently has an annual budget of $60-$70 million aimed to assist with homelessness.
Travis County Commissioners Court has also allocated $110 million from its American Rescue Plan Act funds to address homelessness.