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Under One Roof: Listeners React to KUT's Affordable Housing Series

Last week KUT News spent some time looking at affordable housing in Austin in "Under One Roof: Affordable Housing 101." We got into the nuts and bolts of how nonprofit developers build affordable housing for low-income Austinites and why it’s in such short supply.

We heard from quite a few people about this series and about some of the other issues around affordable housing as well.

“I loved Austin, but moved because of the housing costs and transportation costs. Too Expensive for our family,” said Melanie M Lewis on Facebook.

Camille Muskrat told us: "My rent just doubled.”

Ericka Atchley Sisk wrote: “Moved to the Austin area last year. I say 'area' as my family couldn't afford to actually live in Austin at these current prices. We're 45 min down Hwy 290 West, and I know lots of folks who have done the same. The city is just ridiculous in comparison.”

Dan Keshet wrote to take issue with the terminology we applied for the series:

I really think you do a disservice to your listeners to use the term Affordable Housing to refer exclusively to subsidized housing.  I understand that there is a term "Affordable Housing" used by advocates, but people also use the term for its plain meaning: housing that is cheap, affordable, whether subsidized or not.

Certainly there were some people we heard from who did not see the distinction we were making. You can’t just call it subsidized housing because that pulls in a whole lot of other kinds of housing – public housing and such. So maybe there does need to be a more specific term.

A lot of the folks we heard from wanted more about that question of affordability in general.

In an email, Tim Thomas wrote:

We need to talk about supply and demand. That the reason why a house in Zilker is worth $750,000 is that almost everyone in Austin would like to live in that neighborhood and that while the neighborhood feels they have tons of new development, it does not even remotely match the number of people who would like to live there.  I'd like to see more discussion of the role neighborhood groups, zoning, and history play into this.

Kind of along those lines was this comment left on our blog anonymously under the name “iwasherefirst": 

Allow more housing to be built. Let the developers overbuild!!! You will find that housing becomes affordable for all. But the more delays and restrictions on building, the more expensive our housing stock will be. I do not support our city council making me pay more in rent (everytime taxes go up, my rent goes up) in order to give some lucky few people (some of whom make more money than me) a break on their rent or home. That is the MOST inefficient way of making housing affordable.

Someone using the name “hasopinions” left this comment on the blog:

So-called affordable housing is just a drop of the bucket and always will be. These affordable housing measures should be for the outright indigent, especially the poor elderly and legally disabled. The main reason housing is increasingly unaffordable is because huge swaths of the city have gotten de facto building bans.

Kris Bowen wrote to us on Facebook about how he sees affordable housing contributing to the East-West divide in Austin:

My two cents: Council must mandate equitable geographic dispersion of NEW affordable housing, then perform a comprehensive review what city owned properties within the highest opportunity areas with the lowest concentration of affordable housing can be realized, and start building NEW affordable housing projects in these locations ASAP!

We also heard from folks on both sides of last year’s $80 million bond for affordable housing. Here’s a comment from someone under the name M1EK: 

The reason I voted against the affordable housing bonds is because the city has not been willing to buck neighborhood associations enough to force them to accept the market's desperate desire to provide more housing supply, which is the only thing which will ever, truly, lead to more affordable housing across the income spectrum.

Listeners also wrote in to call on us to focus specifically on affordable housing for people with disabilities and to look at non-profits that maybe aren’t living up to their promises of providing affordable housing, but still getting tax breaks.

We are planning to look into those things and more as we continue reporting on this issue.

Leave a comment below, and let KUT News know: What's the best way to address affordability in Austin?

Matt Largey is the Projects Editor at KUT. That means doing a little bit of everything: editing reporters, producing podcasts, reporting, training, producing live events and always being on the lookout for things that make his ears perk up. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey.
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