Who’s not supporting the housing bond?


L to R: Renteria, Adler, Casar, Garza, Tovo. My apologies to MPT that her eyes are closed in this one.

Council is but one vote shy of the six votes needed to approve a $250-300 million affordable housing bond. At the rally last week were the mayor, Kathie Tovo, Greg Casar, Delia Garza and Pio Renteria.

So what about the rest of Council?

We’ll get to that, but first, a little background on the bond. Affordable housing is but one piece of the larger bond package that Council will likely put on the ballot this fall; the current staff proposal is $816 million and would lead to a 1.75¢ tax increase per $100 of property valuation. I explained in the Monitor last week:

The bond package that city staff has recommended to Council includes only $161 million for affordable housing, along with $176 million for transportation, $167 million for parks, $184 million for stormwater and water quality improvements, and $128 million for renovations of city facilities.

So to get to the $250-300 million mark, Council will either have to present an even bigger bond package to the voters, likely knocking tax rate increase to 2¢, or it’s gotta cut back in some of the other areas. I think that all five who showed up at the rally prioritize affordable housing above the other areas, although it’s worth noting that Delia Garza is also eager to make big investments in stormwater infrastructure on behalf of some of her flood-ravaged constituents in Southeast Austin.

The rest of the dais will not come along so easily.

Ellen Troxclair: Definitely a hard no on raising taxes for subsidized housing.

Jimmy Flannigan: He’s sympathetic to the cause but he’s said that he’s reluctant to approve a bond that leads to a tax increase. But at the very least he hasn’t delivered the type of stinging rebuke to a housing bond that he did to a proposed $124 million pools bond.

Leslie Pool: She’s been expressing less and less sympathy for the pro-housing cause. At a CodeNEXT work session the other week, she raised one lonely finger (no, not the middle finger) when the mayor asked CMs to rate the goal of building at least 60,000 affordable units over the next decade.  She is far more concerned about property taxes than the pro-bond folks, as demonstrated by her co-sponsorship of the recent homestead exemption (yes, the mayor and Renteria supported it too). Finally, she’s a big supporter of parks and pools, and may bristle at a measure that jeopardizes funding for either of those.

Alison Alter: Similar to Pool, except she comes from a much wealthier and more conservative district. Big fan of parks & pools. Supported the homestead exemption. When I asked her about the housing bond in March she suggested that the city may not have the “capacity” to invest such a large amount of money. FWIW, housing staff told me that $300 million isn’t a problem, but that it probably wouldn’t know what to do with, say, $1 billion.

Ann Kitchen: Of those who weren’t at the rally, I would say Kitchen is the best bet to support a large housing bond. She is pretty reliably progressive on economic matters; she has a more populist bent than Alter and Pool, as demonstrated by the sick leave debate. She did support the homestead exemption and she does actually have quite a few Republicans in her district, but then again, she also has yet to attract a single opponent in her re-election bid this year.

Ora Houston: It’s never wise to put good money on Houston’s vote either way, but I would bet against her supporting a bond that raises taxes.


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