Activist group urges city to consider affordability solutions

Livable City—an activist group that aims to protect the social, environmental and economic well-being of Austin residents—presented a preview of its 2016 affordability report to Austin's Regional Affordability Committee March 28.

The report, "Reclaiming Affordability in Today's Austin," outlined several key affordability issues in the city and gave recommendations for local government action. The full report will be presented in April, Livable City representatives said.

Livable City board member Michael Oden said property tax rates are one issue local governments should address and can also pressure state legislators to address.

Oden said that many low-income households in Texas pay a higher share of property taxes than low-income households in states such as California and Massachusetts, where the overall tax burden is higher.

“For low-income households [in Texas], the tax burden is actually high," he said. "So as the region grows and we have to finance services for more and more people, the areas that are affected most are the low- and middle-income strata.”

Board member David Foster said transportation costs also have a large impact on area affordability.

“For most residents transportation is the second-highest household expense next to housing,” Foster said. “This is an even bigger issue for low-income working families. Low-income families often have to travel longer distances to get to their jobs.”

At the March 28 Regional Affordability Committee meeting, committee members also heard presentations on eviction data and considered a proposal from Austin affordability blogger Bill Oakey on a homeowner retention initiative.


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