Campaign supports affordable housing bond


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 10 at 6:27 PM

AUSTIN -- Community leaders say it is the biggest problem in the city of Austin. It's not transportation; it's affordable housing.

Kristiana Colegrove's expectation of affordable housing was the same as most people's. 

"I remember growing up thinking affordable housing were projects, where it was just run down and dilapidated," she said. 

The working single mother of two found herself looking for an apartment after she separated from her husband. All she could afford in the Austin market was a one bedroom. Then she learned that she qualified for affordable housing.

"Every time I put that key in that lock, tears of joy," said Colegrove. "When I have a hot shower, I give thanks, and I know that I am very blessed."

Now, the city's affordable housing dollars are spent. Last November voters shot down a $78.3 million bond proposition to refund them. It was the only proposition that did not pass, failing by 2.8 percent.

"It was our fault. We did not, as a community, do a good job of letting the voter know exactly how important affordable housing is and what affordable housing is," said Marshall Jones, vice president of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition and a committee member of Keep Austin Austin Affordable. 

Wednesday Keep Austin Affordable launched a grassroots, educational campaign.

"We're not talking about just giving free apartments to people and saying, 'You know, we'll pay your rent. That's not how it works. They still pay rent. They still abide by the same rules as you and me," Jones added.

Affordable housing programs also fix homes of the city's elderly and disabled.

"I got a new roof. My floors, the places in the house, the kitchen, the bathroom, there was some rotting and they repaired that, and it's lovely," said Loretta Messer.

The 74-year-old's home of 49 years was falling apart until an affordable housing program stepped in to help the widow.

"I've never had such kindness, and it just makes me feel good now about the house," said Messer. "It's my stability, I feel safe there."

Messer and Colegrove say they are joining the movement, hoping to convince voters to pass another bond.

"It would be ludicrous not to," said Colegrove. "Because if you do, you will be turning away all of your hard working families, all of the devoted mothers, all of the devoted school teachers, all of the people that work on your roads. You would be turning them away from your city."

Back in January the Austin City Council instructed the city manager to look into having another bond election for affordable housing. It has not decided if and when an election will be called.