AUSTIN, Texas — Former State Sen. Kirk Watson, now a candidate for Austin mayor, on Thursday shared a slew of ideas he thinks could help address the housing crisis in Austin.
"Everyone knows it: Austin is in a state of emergency," said Watson. "The cost of housing in our community has spiraled out of control, threatening to fundamentally change the character of the city we love."
Watson cited a "dramatic shift" over the past 10 years that has threatened to change Austin's culture.
"Perhaps predictably, the very qualities that drew so many people to Austin for so long – an ethos of acceptance, and an economy of abundance – are now jeopardized by the incredible growth they produced," said Watson. "At the same time, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, economic forces far beyond our control have further compromised Austin’s affordability, with rising housing costs as the central cause and effect."
Watson's plan to address the problem includes seven parts:
- Scrub Austin's development review process
- Temporarily cut targeted development fees in half
- Let council districts adopt their own code reforms
- Reward neighborhoods that adopt pro-housing reforms
- Launch a Central Texas housing partnership
- Create a master-planned community at Lake Walter E. Long
- Use every tool in the toolbox to expand housing options
"The good news is that the fight is not lost, and we still have powerful weapons at our disposal – namely, an extraordinary consensus about what our challenges are, and a shared determination to find solutions that change the equation," said Watson. "If we choose to respond thoughtfully but decisively to our housing emergency – if we come together around a positive, progressive vision, and quickly take steps to turn that vision into a reality – I know that we can protect Austin’s special quality of life, for ourselves and for future generations."
The Austin Board of Realtors released a statement Thursday lauding Watson's plans.
"Once again, Kirk Watson has demonstrated that he is the best candidate for Mayor of Austin," said President Cord Shiflet. "This week, ABoR held a housing summit, that Kirk attended, that left no doubt about the path in front of us to fix our housing development and supply issues. It won’t be one person or entity to fix it. Kirk understands this, which is why he is calling for a Central Texas Housing Partnership coalition and the use of every tool in the toolbox to make progress. He knows we need to make a collaborative effort and that the City of Austin should pull all levers at its disposal to make meaningful change. These are traits of a leader who can get big things done. We look forward to engaging with Kirk on his housing policy plan and bringing significant and lasting change to Austin’s development and housing processes so anyone that wants to buy a home in Austin can do so."
Other candidates in the 2022 mayoral election include State Rep. Celia Israel, real estate broker Jennifer Virden, University of Texas student Phil Brual, Anthony Bradshaw, Erica Nix and Gary Spellman. Current mayor Steve Adler is not eligible for reelection.
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