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How will you address Austin’s housing shortage? What regulations will you change to allow more housing where people want to live?

Bobby Levinski

City Council, District 8

In order to address our housing crisis, we should be looking towards the guidance of the Strategic Housing Blueprint and implementing the actionable directives that have already been vetted by the community and council. The Blueprint recognizes that the housing shortage exists up and down the housing spectrum, and we’ll need different solutions to affect the production of units to fill those gaps. Establishing and administering the Affordable Housing Incentives Taskforce was one of my first big policy initiatives when I worked as a policy advisor for CM Kim (circa 2005-2007). It was during that process that we established the City’s core affordable housing values of deeper affordability, longer affordability, and geographic dispersion. I remain committed to these values.

On the income-restricted side, we need to be build significantly more public housing, which is why I am supportive of Proposition A. We need to use this money wisely and leverage the funds as much as possible. To me, the priorities will be land-banking/acquiring City-owned lands (especially like the missed opportunity at the Grove), broadening the use of community land trusts, and implementing wide-spread and meaningful density bonus programs, all of which help us provide housing for lower-income areas in areas of town with higher land costs.

The City Council should partner with nonprofit housing providers on city and other publicly owned lands to build housing in areas of the city where land prices are often cost-prohibitive for affordable housing builders. I would also support requirements, when the City sells or long-term leases land, that would require the construction of on-site, income-restricted housing. And, I would prioritize funds for the preservation of units that, with a little City investment, we can extend the life of buildings and ensure that units remain affordable for longer.

To fill gaps on the market-rate side, we need to focus on making the development review process quicker and more predictable to minimize the time, costs and risks that developers take on–and, in turn, hopefully increase production. Much of the debate within the community is spent on entitlements, which I can understand, but entitlements are only one piece of a much larger puzzle. From my experiences, the City has a lot of room for improving its development review process, which would limit the City’s impacts on driving up costs. Ideas I’d like to pursue include working with the City Manager to adopt employee retention and path-to-success policies to keep quality reviewers so not to lose their experience and knowledge that help site plans get reviewed accurately and efficiently; working with Austin-based architects to develop pre-approved, ready-to-build plans for low-impact structures like ADUs; and working with the City Manager to better empower project managers to resolve conflicts between reviewing departments.