What policies will you advocate to address the increasingly unaffordable housing, transportation, and utility costs that are economically segregating our neighborhoods?

Bobby Levinski

City Council, District 8

First, I support the geographic dispersion of income-restricted housing, and I support using Prop A to build publicly owned and managed housing in parts of the City that have too few housing options for lower-income residents, such as central and west Austin.

I also support reducing the City’s reliance on regressive, flat-rate fees (such as those on our utility bills) that have a disproportionate impact on lower-income families. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge here that the majority of our City residents are renters. When we think of cost of living reductions, we should also be factoring in how these policies would impact renters and their share of the collective tax burden. One area in particular that I would like to address to reduce the costs of living for renters would involve our utilities…the deposits and fee structures used by Austin Energy and the Water Utility take a huge hit on most renters’ budgets who often don’t much choice in moving when their lease ends. I have moved over a dozen times in the last decade or so. It’s expensive to be a renter, and I don’t feel like that is truly understood or appreciated by most policy makers.

Transportation: In the past, I had the opportunity to live car-free for two years, and that’s because I lived in a dense area, had a very convenient transit stop at the base of my building and was able to walk to work. I mention this, because I want to emphasize my understanding of how land use, density and transit accessibility has an impact on mobility. The only realistic solutions for improving mobility in our denser parts of town (e.g., Central Austin) are not reliant on single-occupancy vehicles. Land use absolutely plays a role in enabling these options, such as permitting and supporting services (restaurants, retail, etc.) within walking distances for residents, as does investing in dedicated right-of-way for mass transit to make transit more realistic and beneficial for people, by improving speed and reliability.

Additionally, the City needs to be more flexible with regard to technological solutions. While I do not see electric scooters as some magical transit solution for the masses, it was disappointing to see so much time and resources put into setting up barriers for entry on an idea that can at least whittle away at the surface of our mobility problems. We don’t have all the answers yet, which means we need to be more open to ideas as they come. I know, for my own transit use, the availability of electric scooters has made it possible for me to get from meeting to meeting on opposite sides of downtown quickly, without needing to mess with parking, lugging around my bike or sweating from a 20-minute walk.