Austin’s $350M housing bond biggest in city’s history

The affordable-housing package passed with 70 percent of the vote Tuesday

Austin mayor Steve Adler (Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal with Getty Images)
Austin mayor Steve Adler (Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal with Getty Images)

Austin voters approved the largest affordable housing bond in the city’s history this week.

The $350-million affordable housing bond passed with 70 percent of the vote, even though it comes with a property-tax increase, KXAN reports.

The owner of a $400,000 home will see an increase to their 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 of the Austin Justice Coalition at a watch party Tuesday night hosted by supporters.

This is the third housing bond Austin has passed in the past decade.

“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.

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“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, shortly after he, AJC, and other housing advocacy groups floated the bond to city council. “One of the most successful proven tools we have in this city is affordable housing and affordable housing bonds.”

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Opponents of the bond argued for alternatives that wouldn’t burden taxpayers. The political action committee Save Austin Now sought measures to reinstate the city’s camping ban and to require certain staffing levels for Austin’s police department.

“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,” said Matt Mackowiak, co-founder of Save Austin Now.

Those for the tax hike agreed, saying the bond package is just one of the many tools needed 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.

Now it’s up to watchdogs to hold the city accountable and make sure Austin does the most with the money, Connolly said.

“Housing that can reach the widest number of people, making sure that we’re getting high-quality housing out of this bond,” he said.

— Maddy Sperling