The Austin Chronicle

Time for Another Vote on Housing?

By Amy Smith, April 30, 2013, 9:15am, Newsdesk

Will a housing bond election in November 2013 have better success than it did in November 2012? Housing proponents are ramping up a campaign to get an affordable housing bond measure on the fall ballot, but City Council members haven’t decided whether to move forward now or wait until next year.

They have until Aug. 26 to call a November election.

Council last week heard a full-court press update on the economic and social benefits of the $55 million already invested in the community as a result of a 2006 bond election, which voters approved overwhelmingly. The funding helped pay for more than 3,400 new or renovated housing units for low-income and homeless individuals, and created over 2,900 jobs, according to a new economic impact report commissioned by local nonprofit Austin HousingWorks.

Voters last year narrowly rejected a request for $78.3 million in bond money to address a shrinking supply of affordable housing. With that election defeat still fresh, some city officials are understandably on the fence about asking voters to approve a housing measure just one year after the electorate said no.

Meantime, Austin isn’t getting any cheaper and federal housing money is drying up. Rebecca Giello, assistant director of the city Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office, pointed to a substantial leap in monthly rental rates between 2005 and 2011, during which time the median rate jumped from $740 to $905. Giello estimated that current rental rates stand at around $1,000 per month. That’s good news for professionals in the multifamily market but bad news for Austin employees with moderate to low incomes.

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