Over the last few years, as Austin's homeless population has grown and tents have continued to crop up around the city, the discussion of how best to connect residents with housing has dominated the political discussion, at times drawing sharp lines within the community.
That conversation was front and center at Austin City Hall this week. On Thursday, City Council voted 10-1, with District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly as the lone no vote, to purchase the Candlewood Suites in Kelly's Northwest Austin district and convert it into permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness. The hotel is located in the portion of Austin that lies within Williamson County, and earlier in the week, as our Ali Linan and Christopher Neely reported, Williamson County commissioners objected to the purchase because, they said, they were not sufficiently notified; the commissioners asked for a postponement that ultimately never came.
In a separate decision Thursday, City Council targeted four areas they described only vaguely—including a "major" road in downtown Austin and a public right of way near a library in East Austin—to forbid camping after connecting individuals in the area with housing. This would be the first time Austin walked back its repeal of a previously existing ban on public camping, which the city lifted in 2019.
And this spring, Austin voters will have a say in the matter. The Austin City Clerk certified the required number of petition signatures from Save Austin Now, a group seeking to reinstate the camping ban. That election will take place May 1.
—Jack Flagler, Editor, Central Austin and Southwest Austin/Dripping Springs editions
Other news to know:
-Dripping Springs ISD is building a new elementary school, which means the district will be redrawing its elementary boundaries. That process will continue through the next two months, and maps were released this week during the first public engagement meeting.
-Elsewhere in Dripping Springs, Dreamland, a new a new mini golf, pickleball, arts and entertainment center opened on Friday. If you're a mini-golf aficionado, this is your spot. It has two 18-hole courses with varying difficulty levels.
-East Austin bar Stay Gold has closed, but the location on East Cesar Chavez is going to reopen soon as Long Play Lounge, the second location for a bar that opened in North Central Austin in 2019.