City Council to consider possible new affordable housing bond

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Possible funding solutions and information about affordable housing issues, including a potential bond, will again be brought to the Austin City Council by city staff after council unanimously approved a resolution to receive the information.

City Manager Marc Ott said at the Jan. 17 meeting that staff would report back to council on a variety of affordable housing topics while taking into account the council’s past actions, including identifying up to $10 million for short-term funding opportunities as well as finding long-term opportunities through the state’s Housing Trust Fund.

“Of course, we’d work with our housing department to once again assess need and the range of affordable housing [programs]that would be addressed by such a bond initiative and answer the questions also that are in this resolution,” Ott said.

Other aspects the resolution asks the city manager to address include an update on plans for tax ratification and bond elections from other governmental jurisdictions within the city, timing and deadlines for possible bond elections, practices of other cities, and information on national and statewide approaches to affordable housing.

Councilwoman Laura Morrison said she was hesitant about some language in the resolution that directed the city manager to “take preliminary steps to authorize an election.”

“I just want to make sure we don’t go down the road of getting things in place for an election before we know when that election is going to be because we haven’t made that decision yet,” Morrison said.

Morrison, who made a few amendments to the resolution, said she wanted to make sure the resolution took into consideration other factors outside of just a possible bond.

“For me, it was important that we make sure that it’s not just about ‘Let’s do a bond,’ and that we have a broader conversation,” she said.

Mayor pro tem Sheryl Cole said she felt it was important to have direction about taking preliminary steps for an election in the resolution to show the seriousness of the council’s intent on the subject, but said she also understood the need to look at issue with a holistic scope.

“I think it’s really important that we recognize when we’re dealing with the issue of affordable housing now that there will be near-term and long-term solutions, and they’re not in competition with each other,” Cole said. “The city has made a deep commitment to affordable housing and we’re simply looking for ways to try to honor that commitment, and at the same time recognize and respect what the voters have said.”

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