Austin City Council approves purchase of hotel for homeless housing

The City of Austin has voted to move forward with the purchase of a hotel in North Austin to be used as housing for the homeless.

The Austin City Council approved Item #32 on the agenda Wednesday afternoon, authorizing the purchase of Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites, located at 13311 Burnet Road.

The 65-room hotel, built in 2018, is anticipated to cost the city $6,750,000. According to a memo from the Office of Real Estate Services and the city's Homeless Strategy Officer, the building is expected to provide about 60 permanent supportive housing units after some of the rooms would be converted to add needed office space and common areas.

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"These hotels will not only be homes for people but will also provide services like job aid, health care, mental health resources, and more," said city councilmember Greg Casar, District 4. 

Before the approval, city councilmembers heard from over 60 community members during a virtual public comment period. 

"Council it is in your ensure that Austin doesn't remain the kind of city where a lifelong Austin resident has to live in a tent next to a tech transplant in a luxury condo," said Laura Jorgensen, a resident of District 7, where Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites is located.

Grace Hansen said she used to live near a transitional housing facility and never had any issues during her interactions with the residents. "Studies show that there's no data to back up claims that shelters cause a spike in crime in the surrounding area," she said.



While a strong majority were in favor of the purchases, a handful were against or were skeptical.

"People don’t want temporary solutions, they don’t want shelters, they want permanent housing," said one caller who wanted to remain anonymous but said he was homeless himself. "There are 20,000 homeless people in Austin - housing 150 people is a Band-Aid."

Others didn’t think purchasing the hotels was the be-all, end-all solution to the problem, but they considered it a necessary step forward. "Please do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good," said Maggie Brookshire, a resident of District 5.

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After approving the purchase of Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites, councilmembers voted to postpone a decision on Item #31, which would authorize the purchase of Candlewood Suites, located on Pecan Park Blvd.

This decision came after a push by councilmember Mackenzie Kelly, District 6, to delay the decision so that she could have more time to hear from nearby residents and business owners. The Candlewood Suites being considered is in her district. 

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 "We have the unique opportunity here today to postpone the vote and take a fresh approach to the relationship that the city has with the residents that live here - both housed and unhoused," said Kelly.

The 83-room hotel, built in 2018 is expected to cost the city $9,500,000. The memo says that the property is expected to provide about 80 units of permanent supportive housing units, even with some guest rooms possibly being converted into additional common areas or office space.

City councilmembers will now vote on that purchase agreement at their meeting on Feb. 4. Council will consider a proposal from Councilor Ann Kitchen called the HEAL Initiative. The resolution is a coordinated plan to connect the homeless to housing—particularly those currently living in unsheltered camps across the city. It also seeks to connect them with other services, including health and substance abuse treatment.