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Advocates, Council members rally behind affordable housing bond

Friday, July 22, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

Support for a potential $300 million affordable housing bond is growing. On Thursday, housing advocates and politicians launched a campaign to support the bond, which they say is needed to address Austin’s housing crisis.

“If we’re going to protect what is special and magical about this city, we have to protect and preserve the people that live here,” Mayor Steve Adler said. “The way that we do that is to support housing in this community.”

The rally took place at the Jordan at Mueller, an affordable housing project built by Foundation Communities. In attendance were a host of affordable housing advocates and professionals, seven City Council members, as well as candidates for local elections, including mayoral candidates Celia Israel and Kirk Watson. 

“This is a broad coalition,” João Paulo Connolly, organizing director for Austin Justice Coalition, said. “We have 25 groups officially endorsing and many, many more joining us in the coming week.”

Council will vote July 28 whether to put the bond on the November ballot. A majority of Council has already shown support for the bond.

If passed by voters, the bond would be the city’s third major injection of affordable housing funds in four years. In 2018, voters approved a $250 million bond, and in 2020, voters authorized $300 million to support anti-displacement efforts as part of Project Connect. 

“The 2018 affordable housing bond has resulted in almost a fourfold increase in the amount of affordable housing, subsidized affordable housing, in this community,” Adler said. “And frankly, we have run out of money. And this is absolutely the wrong time to stop. We have momentum. We have direction. And the need continues to increase.”

Only one Council member, Mackenzie Kelly, has signaled opposition to the bond. “I’m concerned that the proposed affordable housing bond will significantly impact taxpayers and ultimately make the city even less affordable,” Kelly said in a statement

According to a July 21 memo from Deputy Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Olivares, the cost to a typical homeowner would be $40.14 each year. (The typical homeowner in this case is one with a home valued at $448,000, with a taxable value of $358,400.)

“And that’s just a few dollars a month to ensure that those most vulnerable in our community have affordable housing opportunities,” Council Member Ann Kitchen said.

Given public concern over rising housing costs – affordability was Austinites’ top issue in the recent Notley/Monitor poll – the bond is likely to find broad support. According to Connolly, 68 percent of respondents in an internal poll said they would support a “large affordable housing bond” in November.

Earlier this month, supporters of the bond organized the Affordable Housing Bond PAC to raise money for the campaign. Meanwhile, Save Austin Now – the PAC responsible for ballot measures to reinstate the homeless camping ban and increase police funding – announced its opposition to the bond in a press release.

Another bond proposed by the Austin Independent School District could also address the cost of housing. The larger of two bond options currently under consideration would allocate money to build housing for teachers on land owned by the school district.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been changed since publication to correct a typo. 

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