December 29, 2012 at 03:00 AM EST
Austin City Council Looks for Ways to Fund Affordable Housing reports Greater Austin Homes
(EMAILWIRE.COM, December 29, 2012 ) Austin, TX -- Over a month after the Austin voters rejected a $78.3 million bond proposal for low-income housing, the city council members are attempting to come up with a new way of spending money on affordable housing for those in need.

The council unanimously agreed that city management must find between $8 to $10 million within the city budget for low-income housing. Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo stated that the money could leverage $30 million in state and federal grants.

The funds would be allocated to shovel ready projects, according to a city staff member. Those projects involve apartment complexes that could be built by either nonprofit or private organization.

The affordable housing issue is one that is not going away in Austin, Morrison said in an interview.

The resolution doe not bind the city to spend the money that city staff might find in coffers. Mayor Lee Leffingwell stated that he will oppose any spending possibilities that city managers bring back from the council.

Im somewhat worried were about to spend money on a project, worthy though it may be, that the voters turned down, Leffingwell said.

The resolution from the council is just the latest in a series of attempts by the city to find ways to fight back against the costs of living rises. The measure also alleviates the stress being burdened by the low-income residents in the Austin area. The number of individuals that have fallen into the low-income bracket has been growing steadily in the last half-decade.

Imagine Austin, which is a 30-year plan adopted by the council in 2012, has been created in order to recognize identifiers of the rising costs, which they see as a threat to Austin. The struggles facing the city are not easy one's to fix, or even agree upon for city officials. There are disagreements on if and how to add condominium units would help ease an overheated housing market. The counter-concern is that allowing dense development would cause individuals with more money to crowd established neighborhoods drive up prices.

City Hall is deep in debate on the dynamics of the housing market, and city leaders are struggling to decide just what way is best to approach the problem. In 2006, Austin became a leader in allocating money for affordable housing in bond packages. Since then, $55 million has been approved by voters to nonprofit and for-profit housing developers, which have renovated or repaired by about three dozen properties in total.

In November, a large affordable-housing bond failed to pass the proposal phase, and was the first to do so since the light rail in 2000.

All of the council seems in agreement that affordable housing is an important need. The problem seems to stem from how to best serve that need. Were talking about people who serve you at restaurants, work at our kids schools, drive buses, Morrison said. There are many low-income jobs in Austin, and we should make an effort to ensure the people who work them can live here, says Councilperson Morrison.

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