Council puts purchase of new hotel for homeless on hold

The Microtel located at Metro Center Drive will not be an option for housing the homeless, at least for now.

“It’s having to do with not being able to convert it to permanent supportive housing down the line because of the airport restrictions around the overlay of the airport,” said Matt Mollica, executive director at the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition or ECHO.

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Converting hotels and motels into housing is a strategy council okayed last month when they approved spending $8 million to buy, and renovate the Rodeway Inn in South Austin. Their partner ECHO says this new hotel purchase being tabled is a setback but they believe this isn't the end.

“It's still a building that works really well for us. If the city can figure out a way to fund the operations outside of converting it to permanent supportive housing, that seems like it's on the table still,” said Mollica.

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Mayor Steve Adler said at Tuesday's special called meeting that he wants to address this issue again in January, hinting that the Microtel could still be an option if the city can iron things out.

The Microtel acquisition would cost $7.8 million dollars and would house and take care of 71 people. The city has the money to buy it, but ECHO would have to raise money for the operational costs.

“It's wonderful that we have a partner who is going to raise the money and I believe that we have a community who will step up and help with that fundraising, but I want to be sure that if that fundraising doesn't proceed as quickly as we anticipated, that the city has identified funds,” said Kathie Tovo, council member for District 9.

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This strategy is being praised by the council and ECHO, who say multiple cities have been successful with this method.

“I believe it should be a top priority and it is at council,” said Tovo.

“We want these buildings to be part of our homeless response system for 30, 40, or 50 years to come,” said Mollica.