How welcoming is Austin?
I know to many of us that sounds like a silly question. After all, our community is famous for its open and relaxed attitude. For many years, if asked about what sets Austin apart, I would boast about our openness and hospitality to anyone who would stand still long enough to listen.
Unfortunately, during my years as the CEO of Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT) I have experienced a different side to our community – one where people feel most unwelcomed because they can no longer afford to stay in the homes they love or live in the neighborhoods they grew up in.
The issue of affordable housing is complicated and I know that many of us feel that it is subject to market forces that are beyond our control. However, I know that together we can make a difference. There are literally dozens of innovative and entrepreneurial affordable housing programs operating in our community that are making a huge difference in the lives of impoverished senior citizens and the working poor. These include our own Hands on Housing program that has repaired over 1,400 homes in East Austin since 1989.
The community of affordable housing providers is diverse and creative – just like Austin, but there are two critical partners: the City of Austin and voters like you! Funds for affordable housing from nearly all governmental sectors have been drying up – but this year, the City of Austin has stepped forward and is proposing a $78.3 million dollar bond package to help fund a comprehensive response to housing affordability and homelessness in our community (Proposition 15.)
Proposition 15 is buried rather deeply in this year’s long election ballot, and frankly the ballot language is confusing. But the bottom-line facts are very simple:
- Proposition 15 (the affordable housing bond package) requires no new taxes whatsoever.
- Based on past experience, passage of Proposition 15 will actually generate hundreds of millions of dollars in local economic activity.
- And, Proposition 15 will help Austin leverage significant non-governmental resources to better address this critical issue.
The 2006 Affordable Housing Bond program was an enormous success, that money was wisely invested but it is gone. Early voting is already under way. Interfaith Action of Central Texas is urging its supporters to vote YES for a welcoming community, vote YES for Proposition 15!