Austin affordable housing gets new life


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 27 at 6:40 PM

AUSTIN -- Thursday the Austin City Council made another attempt to build more affordable housing in Austin. The council unanimously approved the next step to add an affordable housing bond on the November ballot.

In 2012 voters rejected a $78 million bond, and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole says the bond failed because its intent was unclear.

“The ballot language did not specify that the item was for affordable housing, and for women and children and veterans and the disabled community,” Cole said.

Disabled veteran Ron Colan spent a year living on the streets after doctors diagnosed him with stage 4 lymphoma. The high medicals costs cost him his home.

“It can happen just like that. In a matter of months I lost everything, everything I owned,” said Colan.

However, last year he signed up to live in Arbor Terrace, an affordable housing complex built after Austin voters approved a bond in 2006.

“Now I’ve got a caregiver that comes in and helps me out, and all this I didn't get when I was on the streets,” said Colan, who is now in remission.

Mandy DeMayo with Keep Austin Affordable says it's people like Ron who need the help that this bond can provide.

“We're the most expensive rental market in the state of Texas, and the ninth in the United States, and unless we do something, unless we invest in affordable housing, it's only going to get worse," DeMayo said.

Cole tells KVUE that affordable housing is also beneficial for the taxpayers.

“We put in money, say $60 million, and we will get back double or triple that," Cole said.

DeMayo pointed out a study of the 2006 affordable housing bond shows “the total economic impact will be $865 million in the city of Austin because of that initial $55 million investment. It's a good investment."

She also believes that more affordable housing could decrease traffic.

“It keeps people in the core, in the central areas of town close to where they work," DeMayo said.

So once again, council members will appeal to Austin voters for an issue they believe must be addressed.

Proponents of this bond say it will not increase the tax rate.

The next step will be determining exactly how much money to ask for in the bond, which is estimated to be around $65 million.