Homelessness, housing prices, new development: The top 10 most read Central Austin stories in 2019

A man panhandles between lanes of traffic in downtown Austin during the summer of 2019. Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper
A man panhandles between lanes of traffic in downtown Austin during the summer of 2019. Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper

A man panhandles between lanes of traffic in downtown Austin during the summer of 2019. Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper

A look at Community Impact Newspaper’s most-read stories through 2019 reveal that homelessness was the dominant political issue of the year. After Austin City Council voted in June to loosen its laws against public camping, solicitation, sitting and lying down, the conversation around the growing issue of homelessness was ever present in Austin. Community Impact Newspaper ran a special report in August, and three of our top ten most read stories of the year centered on homelessness.

Other familiar themes were represented in the list of most-read stories, including new development. Our readers showed interest in the new University of Texas basketball arena requiring a deal between UT and the city to realign Red River Street, as well as Dell Medical School’s plans to replace the Austin State Hospital.

Weather and housing prices are also frequent topics of conversations among Austinites—when flooding hit Travis County in May, readers were searching for updates, and the median housing price hitting new records in June also made the top ten list, reflecting significant reader interest in the tightening housing market and the city’s process to create a new land development code.

1. New city-owned homeless shelter poised for 1.6-acre South Central Austin tract

Originally posted June 14

The city later abandoned plans to build a new homeless shelter on Ben White Boulevard, opting instead to convert a South Central Austin motel to a shelter.

2. UT Dell Medical School reveals master plan details for $283 million replacement of Austin State Hospital

Originally posted Jan. 29

State and local officials broke ground on the new Austin State Hospital campus, now estimated to cost $305 million, on Oct. 3.

3. In win for homeless advocates, Austin loosens laws against public camping, solicitation, sitting and lying down

Originally posted June 21

Before the vote, Austin City Council listened to more than three hours of public testimony from those supporting and opposing the issue.

4. Austin Election Day guide 2019: Learn where you can vote, what’s on the ballot and more

Originally posted Oct. 23

Austin voters on Nov. 5 rejected two citizen-initiated propositions related to athletic stadium deals and convention center funding while passing a measure that would allow Travis County to put hotel occupancy taxes toward the renovation of the Travis County Exposition Center.

5. State of Texas wants U.S. Supreme Court to overturn ruling that bans on public camping, sitting and lying down are unconstitutional

Originally posted Sept. 27

Texas backed an appeal in the Martin vs. City of Boise case challenging a court ruling that said city rules are unconstitutional if they criminalize involuntary actions derived from a person's status—such as sleeping or sitting on public property if someone is homeless. The U.S. Supreme Court announced Dec. 16 it would not hear the appeal of the Ninth Circuit ruling.

6. City of Austin median home price hits new record, reflects tightening housing market

Originally posted June 21

According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the median sale price of a home in Central Austin from January-November 2019 was $490,000.

7. Austin’s Red River Street to be permanently realigned for new UT arena; some question the university’s side of the deal

Originally posted Sept. 26

The University of Texas broke ground on its new basketball arena, the Moody Center, on Nov. 14. Before it could do so, UT had to strike a deal with the city of Austin to realign Red River Street, and some City Council members thought the city should have received more out of the deal.

8. Urban, suburban, rural Texas mayors condemn state Legislature’s overreach, support 'patchwork quilt' policy strategy

Originally posted April 26

Mayors from around the state decried many of the bills filed in the 86th legislative session as undermining local control, with Austin Mayor Steve Adler saying the 2019 session was "more focused on attacking cities than any session I can remember."

9. Austin-Bergstrom airport debuts driverless shuttle pilot

Originally posted Aug. 7

The airport's Easy Mile EZ10 driverless shuttle transports passengers going between the Barbara Jordan Terminal and the rental car and ground transportation facilities.

10. Flash flood warning in effect as rains cause road closures in Travis County

Originally posted May 3

Another spring brought another heavy rain season, with hundreds of road closures across Austin and Travis County due to flash floods.
By Jack Flagler

Jack is the editor for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. He graduated in 2011 from Boston University and worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in January of 2018.


The Burnet Road location of Taco Cabana was one of 19 to close. (Courtesy Taco Cabana)
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Austin City Council is considering an end to enforcement of low level marijuana possession laws. (SHELBY SAVAGE/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER)
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Rendering Courtesy Baldridge Architects Office
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Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first case of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999. (Courtesy Fotolia)
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Travis County commissioners will receive preliminary estimates for a new peace officer step pay scale at their Jan. 28 meeting. (Courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Office)
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The 44 East project will reach 570 feet in height with 322 residential units and 3,534 square feet of commercial space. (Rendering courtesy IntraCorp)
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