Let’s take a look at what candidates in District 1 are saying about housing on their campaign websites. This post will focus solely on what they say on their websites. Doing so provides insight not just into what the candidate believes (indeed, sometimes it provides very little insight on that) but what the candidate is choosing to communicate to the masses.
Although it is now plurality Latino, D1 has by far the largest black population of any district and many both in the black community and the wider progressive political sphere feel strongly that the district offers an important opportunity to have a black Council member.
The incumbent, Ora Houston, is something of a political enigma. It’s hard to know where she’ll come down on an issue, except she’s a pretty reliable neighborhood preservationist who is convinced that adding more housing to the east side will lead to gentrification and displacement. She is retiring, which makes the D1 seat important in determining the Council balance on housing issues.
Vincent Harding, the frontrunner in terms of money and big-name (all things being relative) endorsements:
That tells you almost nothing about how he’ll vote on key housing matters. What kind of affordable housing options? Public housing? Density bonuses? What about the effects of zoning on affordability?
Second in fundraising is Natasha Harper-Madison, the candidate of choice for Austin urbanists.
While she doesn’t go into many details at least Harper-Madison is displaying her belief that increasing and diversifying housing options is a key part of the equation. She also emphasizes the role of affordable public transit in lowering the cost of living.
Next we have Mariana Salazar, who presumably works closely on housing-related issues in her role at the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO).
This doesn’t really tell us much about how she will vote on controversial housing issues. Again, what does “create affordable housing” refer to? What “options” are we offering to seniors to stay in their homes? The signals she is sending, however, align more closely with urbanist thinking than neighborhood preservationism, particularly when she talks about the different types of families/people who need housing, including seniors, students and, most importantly, “new arrivals.” There’s no talk about prioritizing the “people who already live here,” ala Laura Morrison.
Then there’s Lewis Conway Jr., a criminal justice reform advocate and self-described socialist. He has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America.
Alright, that’s pretty explicit. He supports spending a lot of money to acquire land and provide long-term income-restricted housing. Pretty much what you’d expect from a socialist. I’d be curious to know what role he believes market-rate housing can play in the situation. There is quite a division among DSA folks on that matter.
Finally, there’s Reedy Spigner, who has had a long career in state government and got into a battle with the incumbent when he tried to demolish his house.
That’s about as close to a ringing endorsement of urbanist planning principles as you can get, particularly when you consider Spigner’s subsequent discussion of transportation, where he emphasizes “transit, not road expansion.” While Spigner doesn’t explicitly say we need to increase supply, he does talk about the importance of mixed-use communities and multi-family housing, leaving little doubt that if elected he will be pushing for land use reform along with Renteria/Garza/Casar/Flannigan.