AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin voted in favor of a $350 million affordable housing bond Tuesday night. This is the city’s largest housing bond to date.
A total of 222,591 (70.87%) voted for the bond, while 91,479 (29.13%) voted against it.
The City of Austin Proposition A reads:
“The issuance of $350,000,000 in tax-supported general obligation bonds and notes for planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, renovating, improving and equipping affordable housing facilities for low and moderate income persons and families, and acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so, funding loans and grants for affordable housing, and funding affordable housing programs, as may be permitted by law; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.”
For an owner of a $400,000 home, that would mean an increase in your annual property tax bill of about $53, according to the city.
“We’re really excited with this one, because this one shows us that Austin’s voters consider housing to be a number one priority and that they’re willing to invest public dollars to make sure that we can produce not only housing but deeply affordable housing, so we can keep our working people here,” said Joao Paulo Connolly with the Austin Justice Coalition at a watch party Tuesday night hosted by supporters.
“This is the third housing bond that this city has the past in the last eight years, 10 years. It’s the second one that we’ve passed in the last four years. And I think that’s real significant because it demonstrates the priority that our city has,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler told KXAN News during the watch party.
AJC and Adler were part of the coalition supporting the bond, which was officially proposed back in July. It was also backed by many city council members and other nonprofits, including Austin Habitat for Humanity, HousingWorks Austin and Foundation Communities.
“We’re hemorrhaging people. We’re just losing a lot of the diversity. That makes this city special,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said during a kickoff rally in July. “One of the most successful proven tools we have in this city is affordable housing and affordable housing bonds.”
You can find a list of what kind of Austinites need affordable housing and would qualify under this bond here.
Opponents of the proposal said there are other ways to get more affordable housing, like making the city’s building process more efficient.
“The answer is not saddling taxpayers with $300 million in debt and building a small number of affordable houses and cherry-picking who gets to live in them,” said Matt Mackowiak, co-founder of Save Austin Now. “We need to streamline permitting. We need to increase the size of the development office. We need to cut development fees. We need to make it easier to build housing more quickly more efficiently in Austin.”
Supporters agree it’s one of many tools they need to tackle affordable housing.
“We need to employ every tool available to us, we need to fix the land development code, we need to improve processes, but we need the revenue to actually build things. And tonight, that’s what this represents: a community that’s willing to invest in its future,” Adler said.
“We have a number of regulations. We have an old outdated code. We have compatibility and parking requirements that need to be looked at. There’s a number of things we need to do to make it easier and more effective and more efficient to build housing in this city, so this bond faces those challenges … [it] doesn’t get us past those challenges,” he said. “What this bond does do is it says we have funding to make sure that housing projects that would never get built by the market can get built. And that key layer of funding makes it possible for us to keep thousands of working-class people in Austin.”
He also said while the city has a good track record of spending when it comes to housing bonds, groups like his will be keeping leaders accountable.
“Monitor every step in the process that we hold city staff accountable, take a close look at our guidelines, our program guidelines and make sure that the language in those guidelines is getting us the deepest, most affordable possible housing, housing that can reach the widest number of people making sure that we’re getting high-quality housing out of this bond,” Connolly said.
The bond was initially slated for $300 million, which, according to a City of Austin memo at the time, would have an annual impact on “the typical homeowner of $40.14.” A typical home in Austin is defined at $448,000 with a taxable value of $358,400, including a homestead exemption.
City council members upped the bond to $350 million when they approved the measure for the ballot at the end of July, also bumping the impact to the average homeowner to $45 a year.