Jan. 17 Austin City Council meeting to include talk of affordable housing bond

Council members Bill Spelman, Chris Riley and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole announced Jan. 12 that they will pursue a new bond for affordable housing after the failure of the housing bond in November.

"It is my belief that the failure of Proposition 15 does not reflect the character and compassion of our community," Cole said. "Our deep respect for the authority of the voters is what has led us to this decision. Our deep understanding of this community's needs is was leads us to take an active role, and commit to take an active role, in communicating better with the electorate and again ask for support for this issue."

The action item is on Austin City Council's Jan. 17 meeting agenda.

According to a draft resolution, the city manager would be directed to identify and take preliminary steps to authorize an election for a general obligation bond proposition on affordable housing and to come back to council by Feb. 14 with a timeline for required actions.

During an Austin City Council work session Jan. 15, Councilwoman Kathie Tovo said she felt there was some confusion during the last bond campaign about the issue of affordable housing.

"I think we need to do a much better job this time around of really educating the public about the range of people who are served by our last bond package, which did help seniors stay in their home, and it helped family developments and a real range of affordable housing development and support," Tovo said.

In 2006, an affordable housing bond was approved by voters for $55 million. According to city staff, the bond money leveraged about $196 million.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said during the work session that he had some concerns about when the bond election might take place and the number of bonds that have been put before the voters recently.

"I think there's a real good chance of having bond fatigue here with all the bond elections we've had the last few years and the other [taxing entities] as well," Leffingwell said.

During the bond announcement Jan. 12, Spelman said the possible bond is only one piece in finding sustainable funding for affordable housing projects.

"We need to think in terms of a longer means of financing our affordable housing program," Spelman said. "If this is something we're going to be doing year after year after year for the foreseeable future, at least until the private sector finds a way of meeting the needs of all of our people, we're going to have to find a way to finance that. Bonds will help, but we need to find other dedicated sources."

The Jan. 17 meeting starts at 10 a.m. For a meeting agenda, visit www.austintexas.gov/department/city-council/council-meetings. The meetings are streamed live at www.austintexas.gov/department/channel-6.

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