Austin looks poised to put $350M housing bond on November ballot

‘We can't afford to stop moving forward with our affordable housing programs,’ says mayor

Austin, Affordable Housing, Politics

Backers of a push for the City of Austin to float a bond to raise funds for affordable housing have bumped up their goal up from $300 million to $350 million.

The effort to put the idea to voters is pending approval by Austin City Council members; it would be the largest housing bond in the city’s history.

Though specifics of the spending plan have not been released, the Austin-American Statesman reports that funds would go toward acquiring land, building new homes and repairing existing homes that would have otherwise been demolished.

The jump to $350 million would mean $46 a year in property taxes for the average Austin homeowner over the next 20 years–up $6 from the cost of the prior proposal of $300 million.

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According to Awais Azhar, a housing advocate working in support of the bond issue, recent polling suggests that increases in the dollar amount had little impact on voters’ views of the bond. Polling recently shows 62 percent support for an $80 million bond and 60 percent for a
$250 million issue.

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“We had such a strong support at the start that even losing some points we felt we would be safe,” he told The Statesman. “Our polling showed a very significant amount of support.”

Advocates have not polled voters on a proposal in excess of $250 million.

Earlier this year, Mayor Steve Adler hinted that he could see the bond amount going as high as $500 million and recently confirmed that setting the bond at $350 million was always a consideration.

“We’ve seen great results from the 2018 bond, but that money is mostly spent,” Adler said. “We can’t afford to stop moving forward with our affordable housing programs.”

Opposition to the bond is being led by Save Austin Now, a political action committee that also has sought voter approval on measures to reinstate the city’s camping ban and to require certain staffing levels for the Austin’s police department.

Both measures were rejected by voters.

Maddy Sperling