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Waller Creek money can be used for housing

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 by Jo Clifton

City Council seems poised to move forward with a temporal expansion of the Waller Creek Tax Increment Financing Reinvestment Zone at its May 24 meeting, although some members are concerned that Travis County apparently does not wish to continue past the current end date of 2028. The city proposes an expansion of the time frame for the zone to 2041. The TIRZ, as it is commonly called at the city, was created in 2008. Under the agreement, the city contributes 100 percent of the incremental tax revenue collected in the designated area around Waller Creek and Travis County contributes 50 percent, based on the amounts each collected in 2007. As members discussed in March, expansion would enable the city and the Waller Creek Conservancy to fund improvements to Waterloo Park and Palm Park and create two new parks called Creek Delta and The Refuge. The big surprise in Tuesday’s work session briefing came from Assistant City Attorney Leela Fireside, who told Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo that the city can use money collected from the zone to pay for affordable housing. Tovo noted that the city can do all the things that it wants to do with the downtown parks and still have $30 million left over. She recalled that staff had indicated last September that the money could be used for emergency shelter, but not for permanent housing. But Fireside, who said she had done research on the issue, assured Tovo that such tax funds could indeed be used for affordable housing. “That’s terrific,” Tovo said, adding that she would like to have a formal written document stating that the money can be used for permanent housing. Council will hold a public hearing on May 24 before making a decision on having a longer time frame for the TIRZ.

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