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How would you improve access to affordable housing for both renters and owners in Austin?

Danielle Skidmore

City Council, District 9

For Owners:
While I support direct interventions such as the Prop A (Affordable housing bonds) to help improve housing access for working class families, the city does not have the financial resources to meet the immense need. We must find room for market rate housing of all types throughout the city. This does not automatically mean more impervious cover or larger buildings, but a willingness to consider more housing options.
Where practical, large lots (such as corner lots) can also support more housing units for more families. Perhaps this could involve smaller minimum lot sizes, or more limited setbacks to achieve a goal of a greater diversity of housing options. They key is to work with the community to find solutions together. We can absolutely build more housing units at a neighborhood scale that enhances the community.
We, as a city, also need to build more multi-family housing along and near or core transportation corridors. Given our expensive land costs throughout Austin, a key to providing more housing that works for the middle-class is to provide more types of homes that distribute this land cost more efficiently. We also need to provide options to add density to single-family housing lots, such as allowing ADUs (accessory dwelling units) in all neighborhoods—as previously voted against by the incumbent in District 9. This will increase homeowners’ ability to shoulder increasing property taxes through supplemental rental income, while expanding rental inventory.

For Renters:
We can protect vulnerable tenants by strengthening public information campaigns run through BASTA to notify residents of tenants’ rights. Housing access not only means bringing new people into new housing units, but helping current tenants navigate and exercise their rights. The city’s EE/FHO is the primary recourse for people who have been subjected to housing discrimination. This office must have the proper resources and accountability to ensure that it is serving its mission. The city and our community should support the good work of the Austin Tenants Council.
The current land development code places enormous market pressures to redevelop and add housing units on properties which are already zoned for multi-family (apartments). Unfortunately, as these tracts are redeveloped, we are losing the most affordable apartments. When these projects redevelop, the city should use all available tools to help make sure new projects include the maximum community benefit. Maximizing the use of the Density Bonus Program will help to ensure the stock of affordable units is maintained and increased.
In terms of preventing and reducing evictions, supporting the work of the Affordable Central Texas and the Austin Housing Conservancy will also reduce displacements. In the end, there is no substitute for simply building more working class housing in the neighborhoods where displacements are occurring. Working with each community, we must find more locations which will allow this type of multi-family development beyond the existing zoning.