How would you maximize the efficacy of the $250M affordable housing bond (assume that it passes)?

  1. Remove barriers to using public land for affordable housing. Building affordable housing on public land has been has been discussed for years, but has seen little action to date. We need to figure out why, and remove the barriers that are precluding our progress on that. Given Austin’s current land prices, use of public properties will be crucial in creating deeply affordable housing for Austin residents.
  2. Require permanent affordability for all new bond-supported projects and invest in the preservation of existing affordable housing. Many of Austin’s low-income tax credit properties are nearing the end of their required affordability periods. Moreover, the city’s current affordability periods are a mishmash ranging from zero to 99 years, with many affordability periods as short as 5 years or less. Clearly Austin’s affordability problems will not be solved in these time frames so we must ensure that any new-bond supported projects remain permanently affordable. This may be achieved through regulatory agreements,  community land trusts, deed restrictions or other binding legal instruments. At the same time, we must work to preserve existing affordable housing, particularly on and near the transit corridors, whether by buying up and rehabbing older apartment complexes or building new housing on underused sites. We must use our bond money wisely or we will be moving backwards in a big way.
  3. Leverage additional funds. To maximize our bond dollars, it is critical to leverage additional funds from other sources. As a board member of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), I worked to initiate a program to assist homeless families with children by bringing health care agencies to table as partners and identifying and leveraging as many new funding streams possible. As a corollary to this, we need to be wary of projects with for-profit developers that commit to a portion of units to be affordable but leave the land in the city’s hands, resulting in a loss of property tax loss.