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Affordability is discussed a lot in our community. How do you define affordability?

Bobby Levinski

City Council, District 8

Affordability is a very broad term. Generally, I use it to describe lowering the costs of living for all residents–homeowners and renters, alike. We’re in the midst of an affordability crisis. Austinites all across our city are struggling to keep up with rising property taxes, rents, and the overall costs of living. Families are feeling increasingly more concerned about their ability to afford to stay in their homes and in their neighborhoods. Part of the problem is the escalating burden that the state’s recapture system is putting our taxpayers. This year, AISD paid over a half-billion dollars to pay for school districts across the state. This is unsustainable, and it will require our leaders across all levels of government to work together to fix this broken system. I raise this issue, because it’s important to at least acknowledge the elephant in the room. We need property tax reform, which requires both state legislation and changes to the appraisal process that restore balance for overburdened homeowners. That said, the City is not without blame, too. At a time when our residents’ property taxes (and rents) are increasing exponentially, it’s more important than ever for the City to mitigate the rising costs of living for existing homeowners and renters. I support (i) reducing the City’s reliance on flat-rate fees (such as those on utility bills) which have a disproportionate impact on lower-income and fixed-income families; (ii) establishing a resident-based budget review committee to review the budget, prioritize funding to address needs and prepare longer-term financial goals for the City; (iii) cutting unnecessary expenses from the budget (such as phasing out the Council’s recent increases in their own budgets); and (iv) raising the homestead exemption for seniors and persons with disabilities.