City weighs affordable housing strategic plan

The City of Austin wants to get back to its roots when it comes to housing prices. According to a research paper included in the city’s Strategic Housing Plan, “from 1970 to 1990, Austin was one of the most affordable cities in the country.”

But the times have changed, and numbers in the plan project that by 2025, Austin needs to add more than a 135,197 homes to keep up with its rate of growth.
The city has been circulating their plan to address those numbers and to make the city affordable to live in again.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Austin City Council heard public comments about the plan.

The strategy is projected to cost $6.48 billion and could see $135,000 affordable housing units go up over the next decade. Some of the money could come from public funds. The plan also requires each city council district to make at least 10% of their apartments affordable.

“It's neither a plan or a strategy,” said attorney Fred Lewis. He runs the non-profit Save Our City Austin. Lewis testified against the plan on Thursday afternoon. “It lists 60 different recommendations with no prioritization,” he says, adding, “There is no way the city can do 60 different things. It doesn't have the staff, the focus or the resources. So it's a wish list that means nothing.”

A group from the Austin Board of Realtors also weighing in with their public comments on Thursday, in support of the plan. “For the lack of having no plan at all, it's a good plan,” says Socar Chapman-Thomas, adding, “it has achievable goals if we coordinate it with all of the other development that's going on in the city.”

A city staffer outlined roughly 11 amendments to the plan before the public comments. They say they will be posted to the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development site. Next Thursday, The City council is scheduled to hear more public comments, debate the plan and then vote on whether or not to adopt it.