Austin Going Back to the Well

  • Austin will have another housing bond on the ballot this November.
  • It will likely be a $350 million bond to allow the city to build more affordable housing units and repair existing ones.
  • Austin is in desperate need of more affordable housing and, therefore, without knowing more, this bond may make some sense.

I have been meaning to write about this topic for a couple of weeks now – ever since the news broke. But I got distracted by more urgent items. If you didn’t see, the first was to try to raise funds to help keep artistic outlets for young people around. And the second was to update on the new podcast.

But now we are back to local news. And in Austin, that can only mean one of a couple of topics. And this week its affordable housing. We have talked a lot about affordable housing in this blog. And for good reason. Central Texas has a huge affordable housing issue. And we need to do all that we can to help fix that.

The City Council apparently believes that includes another affordable housing bond. As a result, there will be another bond issuance on the ballot for the November election. But what is in it? And is it worth voting for? That’s what we talk about this week.

What is in the November Affordabe Housing Bond?


The bond issuance is likely to be for $350 million. This would be $100 million more than the last housing bond in 2018. I write “likely to be” because it needs final approval this month. Once it gets that, we will know the exact language that will be on the ballot in November.

The City will use the funds to acquire new land and build new homes. It will also use it to repair existing houses. Unfortunately, there is not much detail in it beyond that. The money will be the City’s to use as it sees fit within the housing world.

Is the Housing Bond a Good Idea?


As I wrote above, we have dedicated a lot of words in this blog to Austin housing. And for good reason. Its kind of a mess right now. Austin is already very unaffordable for many people. And there are a lot more people coming here over the next 20 years. As a result, we are in a desperate situation. We have to take steps now to try to fix the situation and prepare for the future.

All that means is that I am naturally inclined to support measures that may help fix the problem. And according to the City, the last three housing bonds have produced 6,754 new housing units. Which, if true, is great. Though, as you can see, I’m a little skeptical. I would like to see the detail of those units. That does not mean it didn’t happen, I would just like to see where those are and what they are (single family housing versus multi, etc). Tackling this problem requires increased density. And building some affordable single family homes helps some – but does not get to the heart of the problem.

So I am a little uneasy about just giving the City Council a blank check and hope it makes the right decisions on affordable housing. Frankly, if the Councilmembers wanted to really help the affordable housing issue, they should do what I’ve talked about in this blog repeatedly – remove restrictions, speed up the permitting process, reduce compatibility requirements, encourage density, etc. That would be a lot bigger help than the bonds the council is discussing.

But as I wrote above, we are in a housing crisis. And so I do not look at this as an either/or issue. Right now, I’m inclined to think that we should vote for this housing bond AND we need to loosen the restrictions and encourage more density. But it’s a long way to November. And I’m sure we will talk about this bond again before then. And as more details come out, or more of you educate me, I may change my mind.

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