Austin is in the midst of a severe housing crisis. The eviction moratorium is over and COVID-19 assistance programs are drying up. Homelessness is back on the rise and displacement is making Austin less racially and economically diverse. This is happening under a status quo zoning code rooted in exclusionary policies that were designed to restrict the amount of housing that could be built in our city. These obsolete policies prevent home builders of both market-rate and affordable housing units from reaching their full potential, making our housing crisis worse.
I am fighting to pair affordable and market-rate housing growth with equitable transit-oriented development. I am fighting against unnecessary parking and lot size minimums and compatibility standards that work to reduce housing supply. Taxpayers are making huge investments in city transit and in order to maximize our tax dollars we must encourage and incentivize development to occur within walking distance of our transit corridors. The more people we have using city public transportation, the higher the return on our investment.
With the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment exceeding $1,600/mo. and the median sales price for a home topping $667,000, I am proud to state that in 2021 District 1 added more subsidized affordable units than any other council district. I will continue the fight for a responsible and equitable, community-driven growth of housing supply paired with development along transit corridors.
In my first term I worked with multiple organizations across the city and state to improve access to career training and employment opportunities. I will continue to build on these relationships and bring sustainable economic opportunity to help build a highly skilled and productive workforce to the areas and people that need them the most.
I have also fought hard to help people with justice involvement gain re-entry into the workforce and will continue to do so in my second term. The city’s economy is recovering from the pandemic and the resiliency of our community is unquestionable. Austin has rebounded quicker than most cities in Texas, but we still have a long way to go. We need to make sure that the progressive and diverse culture of our city is not diluted by migration of our working- and middle-class neighbors to more affordable suburban communities. Whether it’s advocating for livable wages or working to build more kinds of housing in more parts of town, we have to make sure our rising tide truly raises all boats.
One of the biggest challenges facing Austin is the need for a transportation system that is accessible, diverse, and will meet the needs of our rapidly growing population without leaving anyone behind.
Austin’s population has grown at explosive rates in the past decade, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign it will soon slow. That growth has challenged both the city’s housing supply and its transportation system. The consensus in Austin has long been that we need to allow more density along our busiest travel and transit corridors. As we add more housing, the need to sensibly address mobility issues grows.
I have fought hard in my first term to unlock Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (ETOD) along our upcoming light rail and enhanced bus lines. We recently passed a measure to increase housing supply by allowing taller residential developments in exchange for increased community benefits, including but not limited to income-restricted housing.
The Automobile Association of America (AAA) says the cost of car ownership averages $9,282 per year. If we can provide easy access to low-cost transit, working families and individuals have fewer barriers to the other top household expenses like food, housing and childcare.
In my first term I wrote and passed an ETOD resolution that ensures city staff is working in lockstep with Capital Metro to make new housing developments readily accessible to those communities that most rely on public transportation. Our goal is to have as many people utilizing our newly enhanced bus lines and railway as possible, maximizing the return on transportation investments, alleviating pressure on our roads and highways, and reducing the city's carbon footprint.
I was a vocal proponent of Project Connect, and my advocacy led to the inclusion in the voter-approved plan of a historic and unprecedented $300M anti-displacement fund. With its passage, we find ourselves in a good position to maximize our transit investments and ensure that people who depend on transit will continue to have access.
Together we can continue to equitably and responsibly manage growth, support people's quality of life and make the city more accessible, without losing the diverse and colorful communities that make Austin such a desirable place to call home.