DALLAS – Austin, Texas voters will decide in November if they want to authorize $65 million of general obligation bonds to fund the city’s affordable housing program for the next six years.
Proceeds from the bonds would continue a program to build, repair, and renovate affordable housing in the city.
Voters approved $55 million for the affordable housing effort in 2006, but rejected a $76.3 million request in November 2012.
The Austin City Council voted Thursday night to set the election after rejecting a proposal by Councilman Bill Spelman for a $55 million referendum.
The $65 million of new debt is the most that can be supported by Austin’s current property tax rate for debt service of 12.08 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
Spelman said a $55 million bond program would fund the affordable housing effort for five years, consistent with the six-year, $307 million bond program approved by voters last year. That would provide for another GO bond referendum in 2018.
“Just because you have the bonding capacity for $65 million doesn’t mean you have to issue $65 million,” he said. “Leaving $10 million on the table will take some of the objections out of the hands of the opponents.”
The $78.3 million affordable housing proposal was the only one of seven bond measures on the 2012 ballot that failed to pass.
The affordable housing bonds failed largely because ballot description of the affordable housing bonds was unclear at the last election, said Councilwoman Laura Morrison. This time, she said, the need for affordable housing should be better explained to voters
“It didn't say affordable housing, just housing,” Morrison said. “People had no idea it was actually going to be focused on housing for the people in need in this town.”
Paul Hilgers, president of an Austin real estate association, said the 2006 bond program created jobs and funded the construction or renovation of more than 3,400 affordable housing units.
Housing is in high demand in fast-growing Austin, Hilgers aid.
“As a result, some families are now facing having to move outside of Austin to afford housing,” he said in support of the $65 million proposal. “Our economy is strongest when there are housing options for everyone in our community.”