The Austin Chronicle

Working to Find Common Ground

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 6, 2014

Dear Editor,
    In the Dec. 27 News column, “Point Austin: The Meanings of 'Affordability,'” Michael King makes a whole bunch of interesting, provocative points. But he also makes a sweeping generalization with which I disagree: “… the same … neighborhoods (and city officials) persistently clamoring for 'affordable housing' are simultaneously doing what they can to obstruct the actual construction of affordable multi-family units in central city neighborhoods.” While yes, some people object to some projects, he’s mistaking the objections of some for effective obstruction by all. Let me point out some real counter-examples.
    In Bouldin Creek last year, a developer proposed rebuilding Oak Creek Village – 270 affordable apartments – combining that with the addition of a larger number of new, market-rate units. There was a wide range of opinion and certainly some opposition, but much of it was against the proposed market-rate units, not against rebuilding the affordable ones. While respecting neighbors’ concerns and seeking to address them, Bouldin Creek leaders worked to find common ground. (Disclosure: I was VP of the neighborhood association.) Discussions with residents, the developer, and city officials took many months, but ultimately the neighborhood officially supported the zoning case and actively helped win funding from the state housing department.
    Years ago in the South Lamar neighborhood, Foundation Communities proposed to renovate the old Ramada Inn into affordable housing. Similarly, there was some opposition but also much support and the neighborhood ultimately supported the proposal.
    We must not answer a sweeping generalization with another one; we can agree that some neighbors oppose developments for a variety of reasons. But those opposing may be a minority, and in many cases neighborhoods support real affordable housing. In both of these cases, city officials ultimately approved building affordable housing after neighborhoods supported it. King and I probably agree that we need many more opportunities to prove the point.
Kevin Lewis

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