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City Council Update: Hurry Up and Wait

Image courtesy
City of Austin

It’s slow-going at City Hall as the Austin City Council trudges through its agenda.

A lengthy executive session has kept the council off the dais since this afternoon. And some marquee items have been postponed until this evening: The sale and redevelopment of the former Green Water Treatment Plant site downtown (Items 12 and 13) won’t be heard until at least 6:30 p.m.

And Item 22, which would allow Austin Pets Alive to occupy the entire Town Lake Animal Center won’t be heard until at least 6 p.m.  Similarly, a public hearing on new regulations for short-term rentals by homeowners (Item 140) has been postponed to June 7. 

So what has the council done today?

In a morning briefing, members of the Leadership Committee on Permanent Supportive Housing Finance delivered an update on their efforts.

A “housing first” strategy that seeks to address the most vulnerable of Austin’s homeless and near-homeless residents, the council has set a goal of creating 350 permanent supportive housing (PSH) units by 2014. 100 of those units would be in existing developments; 250 would be new construction.

The committee estimates a cost of $21 million for construction of 250 new units, plus $3 million in rental subsidies and $4 million in services funding.

The group also asked that some $7.3 million of $76.8 million in recommended affordable housing bond dollars go to finance new construction, should voters approve a bond package this November.

“That doesn’t mean that $7.3 million is enough,” committee chair Ed McHorse told the council. “Because you’re not talking about just trying to get to 2014. You’re talking about PSH being a part of a larger package that covers many years.”

Those expenses can be offset by lowering the community costs of care for Austin’s homeless. The so- called “frequent fliers” of city services – shelters, jails, and courts – addressed by PSH programs pose an individually cost between $30,000 to $40,000 a year – spending the committee says it can reduce by making those individuals self- sustaining.

A couple other interesting items passed on the council’s consent agenda:

Item 45 accepts a grant of $1.2 million from the Texas Department of Transportation to extend the program limits of the Interstate 35 Corridor Development Program to “study mobility improvements”.

Item 78, requiring rapid reporting of campaign contributions made in the last nine days before a council election, also got the nod. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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