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Austin City Council passes major eviction prevention resolutions, among other items

The Austin City council approved several items aimed at improving life in the Austin area.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, the Austin City Council approved several items aimed at improving life in the Austin area. 

Notably, the council approved Items 77, 78 and 91 which will provide rental assistance to keep Austin families from being evicted through the end of the year, according to the council.

These joint Items provide $42 million in additional rental assistance to Austin residents.

Item 77 states:

Approve a resolution adopting the American Rescue Plan Act Spending Framework and authorizing the City Manager to make the necessary allocations.
Approved as amended

Item 78 states:

Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Financial Services Department Operating Budget Special Revenue Fund (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to appropriate an amount not to exceed $49,400,000 from the U.S. Department of Treasury, available through the American Rescue Plan Act, for municipal purposes related to the Coronavirus disease outbreak and recovery efforts.

Item 91 states:

Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to appropriate an amount not to exceed $20,000,000 for the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Rental Assistance Program; and relating to coordinating with Travis County on rental assistance programs.

The $42 million is made up of about $35 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan and about $7 million in local funds (Item 77, 78 & 91).

“Austin has one of the lowest eviction rates in the country because of our renter protections and rental assistance fund,” said Austin City Council Member Greg Casar. “With today’s vote, we will avoid the waves of evictions happening in other cities. The pandemic has supercharged gentrification and homelessness across our country. We can’t let that happen in Austin.

Under the current local eviction protections, landlords wishing to begin the eviction process for tenants who have five or more months of unpaid rent are required to apply for rental assistance. As the eviction moratoriums phase out over the course of the year, this funding will ensure people do not lose their homes.

The ordinance addressing additional funds was sponsored by Council Member Greg Casar and co-sponsored by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Vanessa Fuentes and Sabino “Pio” Renteria. 

All three items were approved as amended.

Mayor Adler and the City Council also approved item 5 which will use the Construction Manager at Risk method of contracting as the best option to oversee the demolition and reconstruction of portions of the existing Austin Convention Center.

Item 5 states:

 Approve a resolution finding the use of the Construction Manager at Risk method of contracting, as authorized by Subchapter F Chapter 2269 of the Texas Government Code, is the project delivery method that provides the best value to the City for the Austin Convention Center Expansion Project to demolish and reconstruct portions of the existing Austin Convention Center and to expand the facility by constructing new elements. (Note: MBE/WBE goals will be established prior to issuance of this solicitation).

This Item was approved as amended.

The council also passed Item 36, which creates a contract of up to $1,484,000 with SePRO Corporation to treat toxic algae in Austin waterways. 

Item 36 states:

Authorize negotiation and execution of a multi-term contract with SePRO Corporation, to provide sediment and water quality testing and management and treatment of toxic algae, for up to five years for a total contract amount not to exceed $1,484,000. (Note: This procurement was reviewed for subcontracting opportunities in accordance with City Code Chapter 2-9C Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program. For the goods and services required for this procurement, there were no subcontracting opportunities; therefore, no subcontracting goals were established). 

Austin officials have worked to rid Austin's waters ways of the toxic blue-green algae for months now, and on June 1, Watershed Protection said it had found no further evidence of toxic blue-green algae in Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin, after samples in March had revealed low levels of dihydroanatoxin.

However, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) said testing on blue-green algae collected from Lake Travis on May 25 showed the algae continues to contain toxic levels dangerous to humans and pets if ingested.

This item will provide water quality testing and management and treatment of toxic algae for up to five years. It was approved on consent.

Council also approved a resolution aimed at rectifying disparities in the Austin community's food system and improving the system's infrastructure.

Item 39 states:

Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to create a prioritization matrix to identify and utilize City-owned land for strengthening our local and regional food system; complete a needs assessment and plan to address food insecurity and access for individuals experiencing homelessness; initiate a planning process and multi-lingual engagement strategy for the creation of the Austin Travis County Food System Plan; review best practices regarding bond financing or other financial mechanisms to support our local and regional food system; and pledge the City’s support in advance of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

This resolution is sponsored by council members Kathie Tovo (District 9), Sabino "Pio" Renteria (District 3), Alison Alter (District 10), Vanessa Fuentes (District 2) and Ann Kitchen (District 5) and was approved on Consent.

The city planned to talk about item 89, as well, which has to do with the Candlewood Suites Hotel in Northwest Austin. The city was going to amend its plans to buy that hotel and turn it into a homeless shelter, but leaders decided not to bring that up Thursday.

Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly released a statement regarding Item 89:

Although Mayor and Council did not take action on item 89 regarding the purchase of Candlewood Suites today, I have made it clear that I do not agree with this location being used for permanent supportive housing. Council will continue to explore all possible options for permanent supportive housing while Candlewood is in the due diligence period. I encourage the community to continue to stay engaged and assist us with this challenge.

After Thursday's meeting, the city council will take a six-week break, but they have yet to finalize a plan to create designated camping sites for homeless people now that the camping ban is in effect. 

Phase 2 of the ban starts this weekend and that means police can start writing warnings and citing people for camping. 

To view a complete list of the items voted upon today by the council, click here.

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