City leaders push affordable housing



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Posted on January 12, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 12 at 8:43 PM

AUSTIN -- Austin voters passed six of seven bond propositions this past November. The one that failed is getting new attention.

Three members of the city council announced a re-newed push for affordable housing Saturday.

A worn mat and a used blanket. At one point between September and November 2012, 197 women in the Austin community slept on one of these. Including jennifer Parker.

"The volunteers were wonderful through the whole thing. They took care of all of our needs, spiritual, emotional," said Parker.

The Safe Sleep Shelter for Women was started after 34-year-old Valerie Godoy was found murdered on a park bench. She was homeless, like Parker.

"One of the things that i had to deal with was employment. I didn't have a job, my husband left, so it's situations and circumstances other than drug addiction or alcoholism," said Parker.

Experts say the problem of homelessness in Austin is linked to a lack of affordable housing.

In November Austin voters had the chance to approve a 78.3 million dollar bond package to replenish the city's affordable housing programs. It failed. 

Now Mayor Pro-tem Sheryl Cole and council members Chris Riley and Bill Spellman are asking voters to reconsider.

"We're not here today to point fingers, but rather to accept responsibility for ballot language that could have been confusing and a failure to inform voters," Cole said.

In a news conference at Saint Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church, the site of a safe sleep shelter, the three city leaders announced their intent to put a resolution on the next council agenda.  

Asking the City Manager to look into having another bond election no sooner than November 2013.

"If we fail to take significant action soon, many people will continue to be out there, on the streets, filling our emergency rooms, filling our courts, our jails. Many people will be dying on the streets," said Riley.

In addition to asking for another bond election, the city council members say they will have to work to make sure everyone in Austin realizes that affordable housing and homelessness effects everyone in this city.

"AISD has 2000 children approximately who are homeless and approximately 28% of the AISD population is below the poverty line," said Cole.

Council members Laura Morrison and Mike Martinez both raised concerns about calling another election just two months after the previous one.

Morrison told the Austin-American Statesman that the city should develop ways to pay for affordable housing without relying on bond money.