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Council adopted the Strategic Housing Blueprint last year, calling for 13,500 new units annually over 10 years. This gets us to break-even in terms of need. Would you support amending the City’s proposed Strategic Housing Plan to increase the number to at least 15,000 housing units per year for 10 years, keeping the breakout across income levels and including permanent supportive housing for those chronically experiencing homelessness? (Y/N; Explain)

Bobby Levinski

City Council, District 8

No I am supportive of the conversation being raised, but I cannot commit to specific numbers or income-level breakouts without the benefit of the full public dialogue. Keeping the breakout across income levels might not make sense, if the change is not based on projected needs. I agree however that, to address the 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 (all income levels), and we’ll need different solutions to affect the production of units to fill those gaps. I especially like the call for Housing First PSH. For income-restricted units, I am most excited to work on maximizing the use of City-owned land, 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. 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 we crafted the City’s core affordable housing values of deeper affordability, longer affordability, and geographic dispersion. I remain committed to these values. For market-rate units, my focus would be 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. A lesser-known fact about myself is that I have actually had the opportunity to see the development process from both the City and developer side. As a real estate attorney, I saw the amount of time, money and risk that goes into acquiring and preparing a site for prospective development. 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.