Yesterday's Advocacy For a Strong Affordable Housing Bond

Yesterday, AURA member Kaz Wojtewicz testified before the Housing and Neighborhoods committee in favor of a $300 million bond for affordable housing with an emphasis on public housing.  To address our housing crisis, we need CodeNEXT to deliver a housing market that is easy to build in, allows supply to catch up with and meet demand, and deliver new homes where people want to live. We also need a strong housing bond to target low income Austinites.  The Strategic Housing Blueprint shows that almost 50,000 new homes are required for families that make 60% or less of the median income, and we're doing very little to meet this need.  We need to do as much as we can to develop as much market rate housing as people want so they can live where they want, and also spend as much as we can afford to make sure that low income families can afford to live where they want too. $300 million focused on building public housing by buying public land and awarding RFPs to build on that land to the developer who builds the most public housing there would demonstrate a good way to meet that need.  Together with existing publicly owned land, this could move Austin towards a sufficient housing supply - for everyone.  By mixing market rate and public housing together, we can also help to reduce the rental occupancy rate across the city and help every renter, not just those in public housing.   The Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Austin Justice Coalition, Texas Appleseed and others also joined in on the call for a $300 million investment.  The Austin American Statesman noted that Kaz identified other recent bonds in other cities that invested big in affordable housing and easily passed the bonds. "They included a $1.2 billion housing bond plan passed by Los Angeles; a $258 million proposal passed in Portland, Ore.; and a $290 million plan passed in Seattle. All were approved in 2016 with at least 62 percent of the vote. Wojtewicz recommended Austin officials reach for $300 million." Bond Issue $ size population outcome Los Angeles 2016 $1.2 billion 4,000,000 76% in favor Portland 2016 $258 million 640,000 62% in favor Santa Clara County 2016 $950 million 1,900,000 68% in favor Alameda County 2017 $580 million 1,600,000 73% in favor Portland 2016 $290 million 790,000 68% in favor We won't be able to rely on Donald Trump and Ben Carson to be able to deliver affordable housing for Austin, especially given that Austin is a welcoming community to everyone, regardless of their citizenship.  We need to do what we can on our own.   Let's get a strong affordable housing bond and invest at least $300 million in affordable housing.

IndyAustin's anti-CodeNEXT petition is invalid and bad for Austin

Fifty years ago, Austinites against integrating neighborhoods worked to put up a petition on the ballot to fight housing integration. They called Austin’s Fair Housing Initiative “Forced Housing.” IndyAustin and its allies are fighting the same fight—they want to freeze Austin’s neighborhoods in amber and forbid more homes west of I-35 in Central Austin, thus accelerating the rapid change and displacement happening in the East. In their attempt to block adoption of CodeNEXT, Austin's new land development code, they hope to maintain our unaffordable, segregated status quo. Continue reading

Evaluating CapMetro's MetroRapid infill stations

Capital Metro has bids out for 16 infill stations on the MetroRapid 801 and 803 lines. We're excited! The stop spacing on the MetroRapid lines has been too far apart. In AURA's Connections 2025 position statement we called for standard stop spacing every quarter mile. We were encouraged to see additional stops proposed. Continue reading

AURA calls for $300 million affordable housing bond in 2018

2018 NEED: $300 Million in new affordable housing bond funds AURA advocates for an Austin for Everyone. That means an Austin where everyone can afford housing that works for their families. While we believe that market rate construction is a key component of ensuring people can have a place to live that does not leave them cost-burdened, we are realistic. We know that no matter how much private development we allow, not everyone can afford market rate for their home, and “capital A” Affordable housing is critical to providing a city that welcomes all. With the 2018 bond, we have the opportunity to live our values as a city. To truly be an inclusive city, we need to make sure we build enough housing so that longtime residents and newcomers alike have a place to live. The market won’t build enough on its own; we need public investment to ensure homes for people from all income levels. Continue reading

Shadows of 1968—The CodeNext Referendum

Should you and I, as residents of Austin, have a say on CodeNext, the first major rewrite of Austin’s Land Development Code in 30 years? Yes. Should you and I, as registered voters of Austin, get to vote on CodeNext, the most important policy question facing our city in at least 5 years? No. Continue reading

In Support of Connections 2025

Dear CMTA Board members: I am President of the Board of Directors of AURA and write to you today to support Connections 2025 in the strongest possible terms. I know you have been hearing many different things about the Connections 2025 service changes. I urge you to approve these changes tomorrow and implement them in summer 2018, as planned. Continue reading

AURA Opposes Travis County Proposition A; Supports Proposition B

Following a vote of its members last week, AURA has taken positions on each of the November 2017 Travis County bonds. AURA opposes Proposition A: Roadway, Draining, Bridge, Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects. AURA supports Proposition B: Parks and Conservation Easements. Continue reading

AURA Response to CodeNEXT Draft 2

Over the last two years, AURA members have advocated a bold, visionary overhaul of Austin's land use rules that would create a more environmentally friendly, livable, and affordable city. The release of the CodeNEXT Draft 2 last weekend made clear that consultants and staff are unwilling to rise to the task of making meaningful strides toward AURA’s goals. Both drafts leave in place most of the barriers to abundant housing that have been driving up rents and accelerating displacement. Continuing this broken status quo is not acceptable. Continue reading

One year anniversary of AURA's Transit City report: A report card

One year ago this week, AURA released its Transit Vision for the city of Austin. It recommended a set of small, incremental improvements that collectively would have a greater effect than a multibillion rail line or set of rail lines. For transit, we recommended frequent bus routes and transit priority rather than a single magic bullet. We recommended disincentivizing parking and driving to work by reducing parking minimums across the city, enacting parking maximums in downtown, and creating cash-out programs at major employers instead of free parking. Other steps like finishing the sidewalk and bike network, increasing connectivity, and allowing more housing near transit corridors set up an urban space where walking, biking, and using transit is encouraged rather than discouraged. AURA still believes that these steps are critical to enabling a more multimodal transportation system. The rest of this post steps back from the day-to-day grind of transportation planning in Austin to evaluate how the major transportation agents have achieved or not achieved these goals. Continue reading

How to respond to CapMetro's Project Connect Corridor Survey

AURA Board Member and Multimodal Citizen Advisory Committee member Susan Somers offers her suggestions on responding to the latest Project Connect survey. In April, Capital Metro released a survey about potential high-capacity transit corridors under study as part of their Project Connect planning process. The survey allows community members to help "choose the corridors" that will move to Phase 2 of the project as finalists. During Phase 1, Cap Metro has gathered together transit proposals from the past 20 years and assigned quantitative metrics to rank each project. Community feedback on the various corridors is the qualitative aspect of Phase 1 and the survey is a vital aspect of that feedback. As a member of Project Connect's Multimodal Citizen Advisory Committee, I have heard that some urbanists have been unsure how to respond to the survey. So I thought I'd provide a handy guide on how to respond. Continue reading