Affordable housing, transportation challenges emerge as recurring issues at Bee Cave forum

Bee Cave council candidates attended an election forum April 15 that was sponsored by the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Phyllis Campos, general manager of the Lake Travis-Westlake edition of Community Impact Newspaper. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bee Cave council candidates attended an election forum April 15 that was sponsored by the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Phyllis Campos, general manager of the Lake Travis-Westlake edition of Community Impact Newspaper. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)

Bee Cave council candidates attended an election forum April 15 that was sponsored by the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Phyllis Campos, general manager of the Lake Travis-Westlake edition of Community Impact Newspaper. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)

With early voting for the 2021 election about to begin, candidates running for Bee Cave City Council covered a range of issues at an election forum held April 15 at City Hall and sponsored by the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce.

All five candidates running for three at large seats attended and addressed issues facing a growing city that has decisions coming before City Council directly impacting parkland development, transportation priorities and future commercial development.

However, a recurring theme to many of the candidate discussions centered around the need for continued economic growth within the city and the importance of service industry workers to achieve that growth.

Candidates said challenges with transportation and affordable housing can make it difficult for those who work jobs at small businesses, hotels and grocery stores in Bee Cave.

“We are talking about people, who are not making a lot of money, and have them drive out 15 or 20 miles or more [that] can be a real challenge, and so looking at ways we can enhance that and make it a possibility for them to come out and work in our great community is something we should explore,” incumbent Kevin Hight said.


Candidates agreed public transportation, at least in the form of a partnership with Capital Metro, would be too expensive for the benefit it would provide, and that the community should focus on finding ways for service industry workers to live in Bee Cave.

“I think we need to figure out a way to get local people to work in the service industries, and the grocery stores, and things like that,” incumbent Andrea Willott said.

Willott and Andrew Rebber, who would be a new face on council if elected, both said that one possible solution is working with private businesses to create vanpools to bring service employees to the area. Another possible solution was offering school credit to local high school students for working area jobs.

“We need service workers out here, and I think there are creative ways to do it, but I don’t think we need to expand government. We certainly do not need to give any of our tax dollars to solve the problem that could be solved by private enterprises,” Rebber said.

Incumbent and Mayor Pro Tem Andrew Clark said he agreed the city should look for ways to have local citizens fill service jobs and that city staff has been updating the Bee Cave council on the concept of workforce housing and what that might mean for the city.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I saw what that looks like in other places like Austin. They are pretty darn nice developments,” he said. “That’s kind of the place to start because that goes for having our teachers able to afford to live here, our firefighters, our police officers and our service workers.”

Willott said in response to an additional question about the local workforce that workforce housing is a good return on the investment.

“Your nurses, your teachers, your firefighters, your police work in the community; they don’t have to commute, and then they spend the money they are making in the community,” she said.

The National Association of Realtors defines workforce housing as housing, both for rent and purchase, that is affordable to workers and also close to their jobs. Affordability can be defined in many ways. A few examples include housing for workers earning 60% to 120% of the area median income or housing that costs no more than 30%-40% percent of income, according to the Urban Land Institute.

However, Bee Cave council candidate Joann Taylor, who has a career background in education, said she has some reservations about the long-term outcome of workforce housing initiatives.

“I have a challenge with the workforce housing because I am afraid it will not be workforce housing; it will just turn into more expensive housing,” she said. “I wonder how you keep that from happening. What is it the City Council does to ensure that it actually stays workforce housing?”

Taylor said she would like to explore whether the city is working sufficiently with local school districts to use technical education courses as a way to give course credit to local students for working local jobs. The Texas Education Agency website refers to the concept as a career and technical education, or CTE.

“There are CTE classes in the schools to allow you to get credit for working, and I don't know if the city is working with the high school,” she said. “So that might be something we could explore.”

Early voting for the Bee Cave council race begins April 19, and election day is May 1. In Bee Cave, voters can choose up to three candidates for the open spots on the council, and the top three vote-getters win the election.
By Greg Perliski
Greg edits Community Impact Newspaper's Lakeway/Lake Travis and Northwest Austin editions. During the course of his diverse career, he has written for newspapers, online publications and corporate communications teams. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. You can reach him at gperliski@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

The city of Austin's Smart Mobility Office has partnered with Ford on self-driving vehicle initiatives. (Courtesy Ford Motor Company)
Austin's transportation department paving the way for rise in autonomous vehicle traffic

Several private companies are working on autonomous vehicle initiatives in Austin in addition to the city's own smart infrastructure planning.

Eanes ISD's diversity, equity and inclusion consultant presented the results of a district survey during a May 11 meeting. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Eanes ISD reflects on a year of diversity, equity and inclusion work

Mark Gooden, Eanes ISD’s diversity, equity and inclusion or DEI consultant, provided trustees with an update on the district’s DEI work during a May 11 board meeting.

Goodfolks plans to open in late July to early August. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
New restaurant coming to Georgetown; new Hutto community to have nearly 1K lots and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from Central Texas.

Leander ISD
Leander ISD sets district mission statement

This district did not have an existing mission statement.

COVID-19 precautions such as a masking requirement remain in place at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Courtesy Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
'Signs of hope' on the horizon at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after year-plus dip in air travel

Rising passenger counts, new airline operations and an increase in vaccinations could all support the airport's recovery in 2021.

Outgoing Mayor Sandy Cox May 13 gave her final video address to the citizens of Lakeway. (Courtesy City of Lakeway)
In final video address, outgoing Lakeway mayor reviews city accomplishments

Sandy Cox said she is honored to have served the City of Lakeway.

The Lake Travis Community Library is now open to the public. (Courtesy Lake Travis Community Library)
Lake Travis Community Library opens its doors to the public

The library welcomed back Lake Travis community members in May.

masks
CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

West Lake Hills City Council welcomed a new member May 13. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
West Lake Hills welcomes new council member, selects mayor pro tem

West Lake Hills welcomed longtime resident Gordon Bowman to the council and selected a new mayor pro tem during the May 13 meeting.