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Council moves forward on Homestead Preservation District
Friday, December 19, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves
The Austin City Council moved forward with the proposed Homestead Preservation District on Thursday night, while still leaving it up to Travis County Commissioners to determine the level of financial commitment each jurisdiction will put into the new affordable housing venture, which has been in the works for almost two years now.
The concept of a Homestead Preservation District – using a tax-increment finance zone to provide additional affordable housing alternatives in East Austin – is a new concept for
For its part, the county has concentrated its affordable housing efforts in the area outside the city limits. That strategy, combined with the possibility of losing property tax revenue in a weak economy, left commissioners with some trepidation.
At last night’s Council meeting, it also was apparent that people had some confusion, possibly fueled by language in explanatory documents that cited some guidelines for relocating displaced residents. Those guidelines applied to the rehabilitation and renovation aspects of the program, but it was clear residents were confused.
Comments from the community were mixed.
“More of the poor live in this area than in any other area of town,”
Council Member Mike Martinez assured those who spoke that he would never have pursued the homestead preservation district if it were going to impose a new tax burden on
“I realize that the concerns that were raised here tonight – on their face – would be alarming if they were actually what was going to take place,”
Under the proposal, that tax revenue would go to a non-profit land bank that would purchase – but not condemn – available property, with the understanding that the resulting homes would target people between living at between 30 and 70 percent of median family income. Homeowners would pay taxes on their homes but not their land, which would seek to defray home costs and limit tax burdens. Such an effort also would keep prices reasonable for the surrounding properties.
Documentation on the effort also notes a goal of rehabilitation and renovation of existing housing stock, with a focus on low-income residents. County staff has given the city three pages of additional questions to answer about how the programs would work and operate.
Council Member Lee Leffingwell settled on 40 percent ceiling for the motion. Council agreed. The proposal, now approved by Council, goes back to the County, which will hear another presentation on the project by Dec. 23.
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