Austin housers won a major victory Thursday when the Austin City Council reversed city staff recommendations and rejected deep cuts in the city’s commitment to affordable housing.
Thursday the city council restored the $1 million in funding for the Housing Trust Fund. Also, the city council clarified that 40 percent of the incremental tax revenues the city receives from private development on land previously owned by the city will continue to go into the Housing Trust Fund. Several years ago the council agreed to put $1 million a year into the housing fund through 2004 but has continued to make that annual commitment. The council’s decision Thursday formalizes Austin’s commitment to keep putting these revenues in the Housing Trust Fund.
Council’s action also includes restoring funds for youth services, child care vouchers, tenant counseling, senior services, and architectural barrier removal for people with disabilities.
Councilmember Mike Martinez’ statements earlier in the day Thursday made clear to staff that his motion on the housing budget would direct them to restore the Housing Trust Fund. Rather waiting for an order from the dais, staff identified funds to make the trust fund whole.
[Austin City Manager Marc] Ott recommended not putting any money into the fund in 2009 to help close a $25 million budget gap. But he, Neighborhood Housing Director Margaret Shaw and Chief of Staff Anthony Snipes came up with a solution that they unveiled at the council meeting yesterday.
The city will put $200,000 of the redevelopment property-tax proceeds into the fund, as well as $800,000 leftover from another program – the SMART Housing Program – that also aims to build affordable housing. The proposed budget would remain balanced because the housing fund money would not be drawn from the general fund, which pays for most city services.
This made the city staff’s recommendation coincide with the Community Development Commission’s recommendation.
In the city council’s discussion of the housing budget, Austin Mayor Will Wynn, a winner of the 2006 Texas Houser Award from TxLIHIS, clearly associated the 40 percent increment with the Housing Trust Fund, noting that he was proud to have been part of the City Council that put this funding source in place. He pointed out that when the next tract of city owned land is developed by private developers, it will add about $400,000 to the trust fund.
TxLIHIS co-director Karen Paup helped rally support for maintaining the Housing Trust Fund.
This was a major commitment to support affordable housing through the Austin Housing Trust Fund. For maintaining this commitment the Austin City Council and the Austin housers deserve praise.