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September 27, 2016

Austin City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Friends of Austin Neighborhoods (FAN) is a coalition of neighborhood associations and at-large individual members improving neighborhoods and improving neighborhood representation. We appreciated the opportunity to hear candidates’ thoughts on City Council policies can positively impact the quality of life for residents in our neighborhoods. The following questions are based on our principles of neighborhood inclusion, but we welcomed the candidates to include in their answers any disagreements they have with the premises. We received responses from 15 out of a crowded field of 28 candidates. Candidates Gustavo (Gus) Peña, Todd Phelps, Alan Pease, Mitrah Elizabeth Avini, Mariana Salazar, Justin Jacobson, Susana Almanza, Jessica Cohen, James Valadez, Ann Kitchen, Frank Ward, Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo, and Isiah Jones chose not to participate.

Mayor

What policies will you advocate to accommodate and welcome the full abundance and diversity of people who aspire to live in Austin’s neighborhoods?

Alexander Strenger

Bus stops in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, lime scooters stationed at all bus stops, the presence of Electric Cabs in order to shuttle people from the bus to their required destination.  The availability of additional transportation options will increase the accessibility for all Austinites and will reduce our dependence on motor vehicles, making the city both more affordable and environmentally friendly.

Laura Morrison

As Austin’s population continues to grow, I am fully supportive of increasing density in the right places and believe we can achieve our goals for an adequate increase in housing supply in every area of the city while adhering to the many other equally important objectives that are formally, legally adopted goals of the City of Austin contained in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. My record shows that I have supported individual and citywide efforts to do so.

Unfortunately, CodeNEXT took a top-down, single-faceted approach to increasing housing supply, while ignoring Imagine Austin’s myriad other goals and eschewed the public processes that were originally prescribed. A community-driven planning process, with specific targets for both market-rate and affordable housing for each area of town, is the most effective way to identify the mechanisms and details for achieving all kinds of housing in all parts of town, including workforce housing.

Steve Adler

I support policies and programs, including changes to our land development code that would allow for more housing choices and supply for Austinites at all stages of life and incomes. Our policies and new Code should:

  • Allow for a wide variety of housing types which are affordable to households at a broad range of incomes and for people at every stage of life from young, single adults, families with children, to seniors
  • Sensitively provide for more housing types in neighborhoods, transition areas, activity centers, along transportation corridors, and near transit stations
  • Enable more small accessory dwelling units (ADUs) while maintaining building and impervious cover limits, in order to help homeowners with housing costs and allow more flexibility as households’ needs change over time  
  • Allow exceptions to building requirements for small accessory dwelling units (ADU) to provide incentives to preserve the original residence or create affordability
  • Allow families with homes on substandard lots to more easily remodel and stay in place
  • Allow homes in more commercial areas to help provide more housing
  • Allow for site plan requirements and administrative approvals that support the development of diverse housing options, including ADUs and multiplexes where appropriate
  • Include development and design standards that support the development of housing along transportation corridors
  • Help to correct past patterns of segregation and helps Austin achieve its Fair Housing goals
  • Encourage the development and preservation of affordable housing

Travis Duncan

Abundance is the key word here, since we live on a planet of abundance. There are more than enough resources for every single person to live in luxury. Yet, our market driven model idolizes a scarcity perspective, and this dangerously perpetuates extraction and exclusion. We must acknowledge this truth if we are going to move forward effectively.

Our housing plan focuses on these key issues:

  • Asserting it is the People’s Right to Develop, for the long-term, multi-generational vitality-maximization for all people
  • Developers do not have prior right to unilaterally determine what to build, especially in urban setting geologically assigned for mass populations
  • ALL housing must be built with ecologically sustainable materials and methods, must be net-zero, carbon-sequestering, rain-water capturing, efficient water cycling, human biofield optimizing, green space incorporated, natural air flow enabling; This addresses affordability and resiliency at the root cause, since we can inherently eliminate the need for utility and maintenance costs, and overcome the industry trap of planned obsolescence.
  • There are two main types of housing we should be developing: Dense Vertical and Single Family Neighborhoods; Both must accommodate all income levels, without sacrificing quality or dignity based on that metric. One solution is to offer 1/3 of units for traditional purchase, 1/3 to a Build-To-Own/Sweat-Equity/Cooperative Construction/People’s Housing model, and 1/3 dedicated to Profit-Sharing Ventures, like Short Terms Rentals (AustinBnB/People’s Hotel), commercial space rentals, and Innovation Labs geared at providing materials and technology access for residents to explore entrepreneurial ventures to be profit shared with developers and equity contributors.
  • This plan includes 1st option Right to Return for All Indigenous people with roots to this broader region, as well as families displaced by oppressive policies across the past centuries.
  • Mass Transit Solutions, Urban Rail on every major street, autonomous busses and shuttles, dedicated bike/scooter lanes, fully protected and uninhibited pedestrians roadways, and the most accelerated method of project completion (end contractor inefficiencies and bid-corruption)

We must work on ALL new developments with the goal of maximizing freedom and resiliency, which means we must change the investment model to eliminate the costs of housing for people, while providing economic opportunity for residents to maximize their innovative and entrepreneurial potential.

The problem now in our housing is obviously that we build unsustainable and weak units with high maintenance and utility costs, which increase our energy demand, poison our ecology, and cause residents to pay rent or mortgage and taxes, which is a fundamentally extractive and fragile model, also a limited and scarce model which is burdened by a profit ceiling.

When we change this model to what I have proposed, we are investing in the quality of life for all residents, investing in their dignity and freedom to live their purpose, not to be burdened by bills. When we provide these opportunities and the resources to innovate, developers now can share profits with any innovations created within the environment they facilitate. So, instead of building the cheapest possible to extract the highest rents possible, we are building the most long-term sustainable as possible to eliminate all residents’ costs and invest in residents’ skills, talents, education, wellness, and entrepreneurial potential. This is a REGENERATIVE investment, and it must be our way forward.

Once we establish this model, ALL people will have access to Austin’s urban core, as well as equitable opportunity to actualize their highest potential and live their purpose in joy, abundance, and freedom.

How will you resolve policy issues and cases that come before you when the wishes of some incumbent residents in a neighborhood conflict with the interests of other residents and the larger, city-wide community?

Alexander Strenger

Hold public forums where I express said issue in as transparent of a fashion as I can and then my decision will be made based on a majority vote.

Laura Morrison

As I did during my two terms as an at-large City Council Member, I will listen to all sides of an argument and weigh each case on its own merits, considering all relevant available information including applicable Land Development Code standards, the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, FLUMs, Neighborhood Plans, Education Impact Statements, Traffic Impact Analyses, potential flooding impacts and other relevant information.

Steve Adler

  • I will meet and listen to all sides of a contested case and try to identify possible consensus.
  • I will vote in a manner consistent with the policies within the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, other council-adopted plans and policies in support thereof, and with precedents set by my past votes on land use issues.
  • I will err on the side of advancing equity and addressing past wrongs brought about by institutional racism and systemic bias.

Travis Duncan

Everything must be viewed through the lens of full-sovereignty and individual liberty. We must recognize that in a free society, all people have the right to do exactly as they please as long as they are not interfering with anyone else’s right to do the same. This principle has been grossly misunderstood and taken wildly out of context, in some cases to perpetuate violations of sovereignty. For example, a company may think they have the individual liberty to melt chemicals together and create plastic products, but in reality that process leeches biotoxins into the neighboring communities air, water, and soil, and when those products are discarded they break down into microplastics that acidify oceans and violate other species’ rights. This is a clear violation, so in this case that company would only have the right to create materials that do not poison the environment and are completely biodegradable when discarded. Another example might be the designation of historic preservation districts. While it may be in the interest of some individuals to preserve certain financial exemptions for neighborhoods considered ‘historic’, this broad reaching designation may actually limit a persons ability to make desired changes to their home, or may exclude certain people from living there. Sovereignty violations can be systemic and unconscious as well. We all need to be very egoless and humble when reexamining every aspect of our lives to ensure we are not participating in systemic sovereignty violation. For example, our federal income taxes might support vital social services on one hand, yet they also might fund the development of violent weapons technology that is used to murder innocent people in Yemen. We are all likely complicit in one way or another. So the only way to move forward is to be honest and seek cooperative methods for mitigating these violations, and whenever possible, modifying codes, ordinances, and protocols to ensure full-sovereignty and maximum liberty.

As it relates to incumbent residents and city-wide issues, we must humbly recognize that just because some people live in a neighborhood before someone else does not give those residents the right to dictate what new or prospective residents can do or not do. Especially given the racist history and legacy we still live with, incumbent residents may be granted privilege as a legacy of oppression.

This is why we need to address all new land, housing, and transportation development with a new perspective of benefitting the maximum vitality for ALL people over many generations, as well as holding true to full-sovereignty and strong environmental protections. We must do our best to honor what is and reconcile that with what equitably should be, and do our best to create an environment that allows for future generations to compound the outcomes of freedom and abundance for all people, and never allow a fragile infrastructure that can ever remove rights from anyone. True resiliency will be when we are not dependent on any centralized mandate for protection of our freedoms, but rather we are economically free and educated to the highest possible point, and our consciousness respect and values all life.

What policies and approaches will you advocate to promote neighborhood improvement, and avoid neighborhood protectionism, as Austin changes and grows?

Alexander Strenger

The issues of growth and protectionism should be decided by our neighborhood associations so that we can manage growth while preserving the culture of our city.

Laura Morrison

First, we must promote the concept of “complete communities” citywide as recommended by the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. This means that all city planning and zoning actions should be focused on ensuring every resident has ready access to groceries, schools, transportation, health care, recreational opportunities and other basic services, ideally without the need for a personal motor vehicle. Our actions and policies must support this vision for complete, walkable neighborhoods throughout our city, not just in the central core.

Multi-unit housing can be zoned in appropriate locations throughout the city, including in central Austin. To do so effectively, we must initiate a community dialogue and planning process to achieve our identified housing goals, with each City Council district committed to doing its fair share to accommodate both market-rate and deeply affordable housing. The planning process should consider such factors as access to transportation, health care, schools, groceries and other basic services, as well as existing planning documents and available resources, such as public land that could be used for deeply affordable housing.

Steve Adler

I will meet with all the stakeholders in a neighborhood, including whatever neighborhood associations or groups wish to participate.  When there are particular difficult issues, I affirmative seek out folks that live in the neighborhood. My impression across the city is that more consensus exists in neighborhoods than is often appreciated, even among long time and newer neighborhood members, even among owners and renters.  I will always consider and honor the wishes, desires and plans of neighborhood members, but will pursue the goals of Imagine Austin and further the policy goals of Council in support thereof.

Travis Duncan

Neighborhoods and residents all over Austin know what projects need to be completed, yet our city has neglected to advance those projects due to lack of creativity and appropriate incentives. Our platform will accelerate the completion of projects in the most equitable way possible, as we will create a new citizen-incentive network to mobilize our collective energy and maximize our productive potential. This system can be known as: Incentivized Volunteer Contributionism – Simply, we have tools, either through elimination of utility costs, tax exemptions, or any other relevant and consensus-reached benefit, to incentivize a group of people in our city to become the Greater Good Coalition of Valued Leaders in Our Community. These are people who will be given dignity, respect, and public recognition for their contributions, who will help us for ALL sorts of activities that benefit the community. In a city of roughly 1,000,000 people, we will easily find 10,000 people (0.01%of population) who want to get free electricity somehow. If each one of these people only donates 3 hours of their time per week, we could have 1,428 people volunteering each day, which breaks down to 285 people contributing each hour, if we work from 6am to 9pm. Of course we can configure this however is relevant to the task at hand. For example, if an area of road needed to be built, these 10,000 people will be organized into micro-teams, who specialize in micro-tasks, who meet over the course of 12-14 weeks (1 day a week) to learn safety, procedure, and master that one tiny little job. They will master this job. Then, once the time comes for construction, once every team is ready, every team will go in order of their task, and carry it out effectively. When 10,000 people descend on a project in a very organized manner, it will get done much quicker, and with much more community heart. We have the ability to achieve much more through cooperation and abundant mindset. Imagine the economic benefit we receive by completing a major intersection project in 2 weeks, verses 2 years.

This system can be applied to literally any project we need to get done: community organic farming, building eco-villages for homeless, building sidewalks, ADA compliance infrastructure, home renovations, cooperative technology innovation, bike lane development, park maintenance, and on and on.

As far as protectionism goes, I’ve effectively described above how we need to view everything through the lens of full-sovereignty consensus. We also need to look in the mirror, actively work to dissolve our ego, and honestly reflect on how the history of racist and oppressive social structures keep people feeling entitled to areas and resources. When we view things accurately through the lens of abundance (rather than scarcity) we are comforted and inspired by the realization that we don’t need a see-saw approach to resolve the systemic inequities. There is more than enough for everyone, so we don’t need taxation and redistribution; We need a system of equitable systems building that gives immediate benefit to those most in need and helps all people in the long term. Protectionism is irrelevant in a system of love, compassion, and honesty.

What policies will you advocate to address the increasingly unaffordable housing, transportation, and utility costs that are economically segregating our neighborhoods?

Alexander Strenger

Make incoming businesses pay their fair share of property taxes on city owned land, have developers build the number an appropriate number of affordable housing units (30-50% MFI), increase the amount of bus stops in economically disadvantaged areas, and utilize dockless scooters and electric cabs more efficiently in order to meet the transportation needs of all Austin residents.

Laura Morrison

All Austinites deserve the opportunity to share in our city’s success. Yet too many residents have been left behind in recent years, including thousands of hardworking families and individuals who now struggle to afford Austin’s sharply rising cost of living. Unfortunately, Texas law prohibits cities from enacting livable wage ordinances for private employers above the federal minimum and also prohibits many common affordable housing tools, including rent stabilization, linkage fees and inclusionary zoning.

While higher rents and housing costs have received the most attention, affordability also includes expenses for transportation, utilities and other basic needs. Austin must employ a multi-pronged approach to help regain affordability for all households and decrease economic segregation, including affordable housing in all parts of town along with anti-displacement programs to preclude and slow gentrification, a functional multi-modal transit system, and utility rates that account for affordability such as the Austin Water Utility rate review that I sponsored while on City Council.

Steve Adler

I will support policies that encourage the development and preservation of affordable housing that minimizes residents’ transportation costs and city expenditures for utility infrastructure, including associated changes to our land development code and in the awarding of affordable housing support.

  • We need to create opportunities to build and preserve housing that is more affordable than homes being built today under the current Code;
  • We need to encourage property owners to keep existing housing that is affordable for middle and lower-income families and offer targeted incentives;
  • We need to expand affordable housing in the appropriate areas, corridors and centers of Austin in order to create opportunities for people to live closer to work, school, family and friends, and help address the historic inequities and economic segregation of lower-income Austinites;
  • We need to expand opportunities for community solar with access provided lower-income Austinites, as part of overarching plans to make distributed power and water supply more available.

Travis Duncan

Our Contributionism plan gives those most in need the opportunity to receive themselves of economic burdens immediately, while building equity in a collective network of abundance. With this model, anyone has the opportunity to obtain housing, transportation, and resources without the need for money.

Since the commodification of resources is the fundamental problem causing inequity and economic segregation, this is the only known method to address the root causes. Over the course of 10 years, we will build a system of UNIVERSAL RESOURCE ACCESS, so that Water, Food, Housing, Transportation, Education, HealthCare, Telecommunications, and Energy are all FREE. This Freedom will have been Earned by the cooperative effort of all those who contribute, and is a truly sustainable and resilient system, as it does not require taxation to function, while using the most advanced technology and automation to liberate us from mundane tasks. With Universal Resource Access, we will live in a city of 1,000,000+ entrepreneurs, artists, scholars, and inventors. No one will have to work a job just to stay alive, we only need three hours a week of contributed volunteer labor toward the entire ecosystem of community projects, which grants full access to the entire network, the tribe off abundance. The people will become the Solution-Makers for the entire world, solving our massive problems of pollution, poverty, hunger, war and so on. By liberating ourselves from the wage clock, we eliminate poverty and inequality, and increase our probabilities of seeding the realization of genius in our own city.

District 1

What policies will you advocate to accommodate and welcome the full abundance and diversity of people who aspire to live in Austin’s neighborhoods?

Reedy Macque Spigner III

During my campaign I launched “District Dialogues”, an initiative to hear directly from voters, in intimate settings like homes, small businesses, churches and community centers throughout east Austin. I will continue that effort and encourage efforts for new and legacy residents to engage.

Natasha Harper-Madison

I want to work with old and new neighbors to preserve what makes Austin unique while ensuring our city has a future that’s affordable and accessible. We can’t “Keep Austin Weird” without having enough housing so that weird people who prioritize creativity and community can afford to live here.

We need a new, simplified land development code that facilitates the creation of walkable neighborhoods and neighborhood amenities like small grocery stores, childcare facilities, and green spaces. A code that legalizes the development of gentle density by-right, and eliminates minimum lot size restrictions and unnecessary minimum parking requirements that create impervious cover and high costs for small businesses and housing.

Vincent Harding

My campaign foundation is built on the phrase, “all hands on deck.” I want to help build a coalition of a future Austin with people of all ages, races, and economic statuses.

Austin does not have legal segregation anymore. However, Austin is in fact segregated based on race and economic status. Austin can increase economic integration in two main ways: 1) public affordable housing dollars; 2) code development changes.

Affordable housing dollars can buy land, purchase existing affordable housing properties, build new affordable housing properties, and provide home repairs. Affordable housing in different parts of the city will help to provide economic integration. The City must look at affordable housing dollars as a way to provide low income and affordable housing.

Changes to our land development code to provide greater density on corridors and missing middle housing behind it will provide less expensive housing options than single-family home replacements. While density will create less expensive housing options and provide some additional economic integration, the market is not going to voluntarily create affordable housing without some sort of density bonus.

Lewis Conway Jr.

I think we can begin with passing the affordable housing bond, to ensure folks have access.

How will you resolve policy issues and cases that come before you when the wishes of some incumbent residents in a neighborhood conflict with the interests of other residents and the larger, city-wide community?

Reedy Macque Spigner III

As a new councilman I will use “District Dialogues” to engage the community. I will hear from the larger constituency on each issue. After careful deliberation I will consider each side’s perspective and communicate my views. I will then attempt to reach a consensus and do what’s best for all the residents of District 1.

Natasha Harper-Madison

We need to be an Austin that works for everyone: old neighbors, new neighbors, near neighbors, and neighbors across town. We need processes that consider and balance the needs of everyone in the city, especially groups and communities that Austin historically hasn’t served well and struggles to serve today. I will address these issues holistically and with integrity. At the end of the day, I will always do what is best for the community as a whole and our city’s future.

Vincent Harding

As former Chair of Travis County Democratic Party, I not only weighed the interest of elected officials, but precinct chairs, Democratic clubs, voters, and non-voters. I think it is important to consider everyone that may be impacted

As a first generation college graduate and someone whom parents were not that engaged in politics, I think my lived experience will help me to have compassion for their position even if they are unable to show up to City Hall for a meeting. I also want to reach out to all residents in the District. I am proud of my work as Chair of the Travis County Democratic Party as we had the highest voter registration percentage ever. Further, I held more community conversations than any previous Chair of the Party and will continue to hold community conversations if I am fortunate enough to be elected.

Lewis Conway Jr.

We launched The People’s Assembly of District 1, specifically for this reason and purpose.

What policies and approaches will you advocate to promote neighborhood improvement, and avoid neighborhood protectionism, as Austin changes and grows?

Reedy Macque Spigner III

As a community we need to rally and collaborate to find solutions for problems plaguing Austin. Council should concentrate on the communities that are susceptible to gentrification to prevent residents and small businesses from being priced out, as their neighborhoods become more attractive to developers and investors. Protecting our vulnerable citizens will send the right message that we are in this as a community.

Natasha Harper-Madison

I believe it’s important for us to be passionate about our beautiful, rich past, but also pragmatic about our city’s future and the necessary actions we must take for Austin to grow sustainably and affordably.

This includes looking at the tremendous adaptive potential of under-used existing buildings/housing stock, as well as conscious development that works to complement the existing architectural style of the neighborhood.

Of course, new construction is also needed to keep pace with our growing need for housing, but making room doesn’t require us to ruin the historic fabric of our neighborhoods. Almost anywhere you look, there are opportunities for sensitive and compatible infill that can enrich urban character rather than diminish it.

First would be to address our exclusionary zoning issues. Gentle density like fourplexes, triplexes,  rowhomes, and cottage courts should be permitted by-right in all parts of our city. Preservation districts that offer affordability in perpetuity should be legal in all parts of the city.

I believe we can overcome a lot of the neighborhood protectionism we will encounter by  implementing an urban infill program like the City of Edmonton, Canada. The city has invested in outreach tools and guidance for infill builders so they can better serve the communities they build in and communicate their projects with the community. They also invested heavily in a marketing campaign to promote their city-wide infill road map clearly and educate the general public on the reasoning behind it and the benefits.

Vincent Harding

I believe my temperament and experience will help me build coalitions and find compromises. As Chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, I did not take sides in some of the primary election contests. This allowed me to build relationships with people on all sides of political contests. In addition to the relationships, I got experience navigating sensitive political issues and maintaining confidences. Thus, I hope my approach will help different perspectives on issues find some compromise.

Lewis Conway Jr.

We have to rely on our citizenry to guide us and lead us.

What policies will you advocate to address the increasingly unaffordable housing, transportation, and utility costs that are economically segregating our neighborhoods?

Reedy Macque Spigner III

The most significant action the City Council can take is to modernize the city’s housing strategies (including lands restrictions) to expand options and opportunities to increase housing supply and variety throughout the city and allow multi-family dwellings and streamline the permitting process, including administrative approval.  Compatibility regulations are the biggest limiter of housing supply. Compatibility regulations are the biggest limiter of housing supply. This can be accomplished and still protect the character of Austin’s older neighborhoods.

Natasha Harper-Madison

A community can’t thrive unless people can afford housing, transportation, healthcare, education, and childcare.

There are many challenges that contribute to a lack of affordable housing, such as income inequality, institutional inequity, antiquated land use practices, flawed transportation infrastructure, and the need for innovation in workforce development.

Passing the affordability bond is a good start. I will also find creative approaches to affordable housing such as co-op models and communal living options while deploying tools that encourage considerate development. However, the most effective thing can do is drive housing costs lower by increasing the number of available homes in Austin. We need a new, simplified land development code that legalizes the construction of more affordable housing types like fourplexes and townhomes in all parts of our city and streamlines the permitting process.

Additionally, we need practical public transit options. Affordable housing isn’t affordable if transportation costs are too high.  We also need amenities-driven development. If you create multi-family housing that includes recording studio space, or child care facilities, these will attract and cater to the tenants those amenities benefit.

My experience negotiating with developers and the community in East Austin means I am uniquely poised to get the affordable housing we need. I will advocate for both homeowners and renters, ensuring that they receive the resources they need to stay in place and welcome new neighbors without fear of displacement.

Vincent Harding

First and foremost, it is pivotal for City of Austin voters pass the affordable housing bonds. I will seek to address affordability by making things better by focusing on at least three factors: Housing, Income, and Infrastructure.

  1. Housing – The goal of “the market” is to make money. “The market” will not voluntarily create affordable (less profitable) housing without any sort of incentive. Thus, local government entities must use the budget and bonds to build both affordable and low-income housing by investing public dollars and work with nonprofits and private businesses to raise money for these sorely needed developments.

    Further, supply and demand economics impact housing costs. Additional housing supply will help to slow down the rate of price growth. Missing middle housing can help to provide less expensive housing options and could help to increase transit supportive density.
  2. Income – I want to help people make more money through job education and training programs at low cost to no cost. This combined with low cost to no cost childcare is pivotal in helping people reach higher income brackets.
  3. Infrastructure – Transportation and utility costs are critical aspects of affordability. Improvements to mass transit may increase car-free living, lowering the overall cost of living in Austin. Additionally, less wait times and faster commutes for mass transit will also give more time to individuals who have no option but mass transit to get around. Moreover, seeking to provide energy efficiencies in new buildings and improvements in existing homes can result in lower utility costs.

Lewis Conway Jr.

We can make Austin a city that working people can afford to work in, live in, and raise their children in. I believe that we should take care of each other as a community and that means not only working to reduce poverty but to reverse the conditions that create it.

My plan for making Austin affordable will take bold action, bringing people out of poverty and making Austin a city that works for working people.

I propose that we institute a community land trust that would create truly affordable housing, allowing us to keep communities together.

I am proposing that we create a healthcare pilot program that would guarantee health coverage to citizens of District 1, modeled after a successful ten-year program, Healthy San Francisco, eventually expanding to all of Austin.

I am proposing that we institute a Municipal Jobs Guarantee, creating living wage jobs for people unable to find work in the job market.

We must expand and improve our public transportation in order to reduce the cost of transportation and reduce the need to own and maintain a personal vehicle.

Affordability is a complex issue but we can work together to reduce the burden on low and middle-income families.

District 3

What policies will you advocate to accommodate and welcome the full abundance and diversity of people who aspire to live in Austin’s neighborhoods?

Amit Motwani

Austin’s demographic landscape is rapidly changing due to population influx/efflux  and economic investment. The core beliefs I will support in a policy framework include: 1) working through the lens of the Mayor’s Task Force Report on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequity which documents Austin’s racist history of mandating that people of color live in the then undesirable industrial “east side” of the City.  2) prioritizing existing residents’ and local businesses’ ability to stay in the communities they enrich 3) understanding that growth is inevitable, and therefore a priority will be to be ahead of planning density equitably across all districts and also do the same by following the Strategic Housing Blueprint to develop affordable housing stock.  Neighborhood associations will need to play a lead role in this process, and engagement across other stakeholder groups is compulsory and must be actively stewarded by council members. 4) Direct affordability measures will always begin with allowable tax relief for seniors and other longtime homeowners whose incomes may not be reflective of current real estate value.  5) Additional relief for lower-income households will be supported by improved navigation of and investment in private nonprofit social service contracts to ease household costs in other areas (rent/utilities payment assistance, quality childcare, health screenings, transportation/vouchers for med appointments, counseling/mental health support, job skills training, and similar supports).

Sabino “Pio” Renteria

Housing Affordability is the biggest crisis our city is facing and something I will continue to tackle head on.  Preserving and creating affordable housing is my top priority.

I’ve worked with non-profit housing providers like Habitat, HACA, and Mobile Loaves & Fishes to help create hundreds of affordable homes. Throughout my life I’ve pushed for affordable housing bonds and supported projects in my neighborhood that brought affordability. I’m also pushing for  Prop A, the $250 million affordable housing bond.

How will you resolve policy issues and cases that come before you when the wishes of some incumbent residents in a neighborhood conflict with the interests of other residents and the larger, city-wide community?

Amit Motwani

Engagement, Transparency and Trust Building.  Austinites are intrinsically compassionate. I would steward (with the support of facilitation and engagement experts)  cross-functional stakeholder groups that bring together elements from as many facets as possible within a region. Like so many Austinites, I’m tired of the binary politics–it is entirely possible to have a priority set that includes combinations of both character preservation and the pragmatic development of an urban core.  Not only is it possible, but as a result of interconnected elements of an economic function, it’s necessary. At the end of the day, when residents of the same communities face each other and discuss pain points, other residents are sensitive to those same pain points and attempt to help resolve them. I think the challenge has been breeches of confidence, when neighborhood residents have been willing to make concessions for density development in the name of affordability for other residents–and it didn’t happen.

Sabino “Pio” Renteria

I believe that we must consider the needs of all members of the community including renters, young people, and others who historically are underrepresented at City Hall. That being said, we must come together as neighbors to build a more affordable Austin.

I grew up in Austin and raised my children here.  I want my children and grandchildren to be able to afford to live in our city.  Young or old, rich or poor I want everyone to have a place here and I will continue to fight for these values at city hall.

What policies and approaches will you advocate to promote neighborhood improvement, and avoid neighborhood protectionism, as Austin changes and grows?

Amit Motwani

I believe the work of neighborhood associations could be more deeply honored and engaged by development of an improved framework for transparency of  processes for leadership determination, resident notifications, meeting times, publicly posted meeting minutes, notifications of approvals or exceptions, in an easily accessible format that should be hosted on COA (or sanctioned) uniform tech infrastructure. If this were normalized and standardized across all neighborhood associations, this would enable the participation of a more broad swath of residents in the process and work toward mitigating a key complaint around trust issues due to lack of transparency, which I’m hearing are a large barrier in the cross-stakeholder engagement process.

Sabino “Pio” Renteria

I believe that we can implement smart policy solutions that will improve our neighborhoods while still serving the needs of the existing community.  Infill tools like Accessory Dwelling Units are a great way to help people afford to stay in their neighborhoods while providing more affordable housing options.  The Austin Neighborhoods Council unsuccessfully fought my neighborhood when we wanted to allow more people to build ADUs. I personally built a garage apartment that allowed me to pay rising property taxes and stay in my home.  Many other people in my neighborhood have built garage apartments as a way to help them stay in place.

Another tool is the cities Density Bonus Program which can be used to ensure that new development brings more affordable housing to our community, so that we not only welcome new people but bring back the people who have already been displaced.

What policies will you advocate to address the increasingly unaffordable housing, transportation, and utility costs that are economically segregating our neighborhoods?

Amit Motwani

  1. I support the entire bond package on the ballot, specifically, propositions A and E, which model investments in affordable housing and social service improvements as detailed in the following points
  2. Continue to promote property tax relief for vulnerable homeowner groups including seniors and long-time residents
  3. Increase deeply affordable and affordable housing supply—develop immediately (or ASAP) on publicly available land for affordable housing.
  4. Dramatically increase human service investments: health care, transportation, high quality child care, food insecurity, preventive health screenings, social service needs, low cost/low-interest loans.
  5. Strong focus on policy that increases access to public high quality child care
  6. Improved access to economic opportunity through coordinated efforts for relevant job skills training

Sabino “Pio” Renteria

Behind housing, transportation is the 2nd highest expense for most households.  When we force more people to live on the edge or outside the city, we make it very difficult and expensive for them to get back into the city.  We must allow more people to live in places where they are not forced into a long commute and near services. We need to create a multi-modal transportation network that includes a robust and reliable public transit system, pedestrian and bike infrastructure, and safe streets for everyone regardless of their mode of transit.

District 5

(No answers provided.)

District 8

What policies will you advocate to accommodate and welcome the full abundance and diversity of people who aspire to live in Austin’s neighborhoods?

Bobby Levinski

To address the housing crisis, we should be looking towards the guidance of the Strategic Housing Blueprint and implementing the actionable directives that have already been vetted by the community and council. The Blueprint recognizes that a housing shortage exists up and down the housing spectrum, and we’ll need different solutions to affect the production of units to fill those gaps at each income target-level.

For lower-income families, we must invest in significantly more public housing. I am most excited to work on maximizing the use of City-owned land, broadening the use of community land trusts, and implementing wide-spread and meaningful density bonus programs, all of which help us provide housing for lower-income areas in areas of town with higher land costs. Establishing and administering the Affordable Housing Incentives Taskforce was one of my first big policy initiatives when I worked as a policy advisor for CM Kim (circa 2005-2007). It was during that process we crafted the City’s core affordable housing values of deeper affordability, longer affordability, and geographic dispersion. I remain committed to these values.

For market-rate units, my focus would be on making the development review process quicker and more predictable to minimize the time, costs and risks that developers take on–and, in turn, hopefully increase production. A lesser-known fact about myself is that I have actually had the opportunity to see the development process from both the City and developer side. As a real estate attorney, I saw the amount of time, money and risk that goes into acquiring and preparing a site for prospective development. Much of the debate within the community is spent on entitlements, which I can understand, but entitlements are only one piece of a much larger puzzle. From my experiences, the City has a lot of room for improving its development review process, which would limit the City’s impacts on driving up costs. Ideas I’d like to pursue include working with the City Manager to adopt employee retention and path-to-success policies to keep quality reviewers so not to lose their experience and knowledge that help site plans get reviewed accurately and efficiently; working with Austin-based architects to develop pre-approved, ready-to-build plans for low-impact structures like ADUs; and working with the City Manager to better empower project managers to resolve conflicts between reviewing departments.

Rich DePalma

Austin doubles in size between every twenty and thirty years. As we grow, we must move toward our housing challenges and not turn away in hopes that families will not grow, students will not stay, new residents will not come, and adults will not age. The Strategic Housing Blueprint calculates the need for an additional 135,197 units of both income-restricted affordable housing and market-rate housing to be built between 2015-2020 to address affordability. The report breaks it down by Median Family Income goals. We are not meeting these goals and as a result, housing costs continue to increase as supply continues to be limited. My own research shows that we need vacancy rates around 10% for each type of housing stock in order to increase affordability. I support adding the housing we need to get to that vacancy rate.

The simple fact is that we have pushed too many out of Austin to live, force them back to the city to work, and then we complain about both sprawl and traffic congestion. This is a problem we must fix and it can only be done by a diverse mix of housing types throughout the city that are developed under a clear land development code, executed by a functioning development services department, using an array of traditional and creative financing options, and built by an available skilled workforce.  This housing includes small apartment complexes, small single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, row houses, and co-ops.

I will advocate for a land development code and maps that is consistent with the Imagine Austin Plan and smart growth principles.

Here are some other policies I will advocate for:

Land Development Code – Our code should be agile, sustainable, and evolve to meet the needs of the community at present and for the future. It must provide for diversity in housing stock. This is a priority and important for SW Austin where SF-1 zoning reigns supreme. We need the diversity of housing stock to meet the needs of our single parents, seniors, and young adults.

Permitting – no surprise to anyone that our permitting process is expensive, cumbersome and inefficient. Upgrades to the AMANDA permitting system and temporary employees will only go so far but the process needs to be streamlined to reduce costs. In addition to fixing the system, as of September 7, 2019, the Development Services Department had 59 open positions including managerial positions, we must get those positions filled and the people trained.

Public Land – the city owns properties where housing is needed but it had no known strategic plan on how to best leverage those properties to maximize affordable housing at different MFI goals. An RFI for all appropriate properties should be released to identify potential opportunities and considerations. After the RFI process, an RFP should be released taking all the information in mind. When possible, the city should coordinate with other public entities to identify an opportunities for a larger vision or to help leverage the development for other municipal opportunities such as activating transit solutions.

Leverage Housing for Holistic Solutions -I will advocate for transit-oriented development, vertical mixed-use developments, and senior focused developments that will increase density along the corridors and near cultural and job centers.

Affordable Housing – District 8 has the lowest amount of affordable housing in the city, and I would like to see this change to benefit our neighbors on fixed incomes or facing life changes such as divorce or death of a spouse. I also believe that we must update our land development code to solve the challenges of our present day and future, versus adhering to a code drafted when our population and sprawl were not facing the growth we see now.

Additionally, I support the following other strategies to address our housing shortages:

  1. Improve the compatibility set-back requirements
  2. Modify minimum on-property parking requirements/street parking requirements
  3. Create additional housing and environmental opportunities through the reduction of minimum lot sizes
  4. Increase the rental subsidies and broaden the type of housing where it can be used.
  5. Continue to pursue General Obligation Bonds approved by the voter for the development of affordable housing, low-income tax.
  6. Promote the use of Community Development Financial Institutions for subsidized financing rates and expedited funding.
  7. Expand public private partnerships.
  8. Increase land banking in Austin but through a data driven model of acquisition and sailing.  Using currently available (nonprogrammed) public land for residential development and strategically purchasing future land along transit corridors and areas where it is ideal to increase workforce/commuter and senior housing density.
  9. Update our land development/zoning code that provides clarity on land use regulations so there is certainty for developers on what is required.
  10. Implement the density bonus program as prescribed in the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint.
  11. Increase the availability of Accessory Dwelling Units.

Paige Ellis

A comprehensive rewrite of the 1984 land development code as required by the adoption of the Imagine Austin plan. Increased connectivity of sidewalks, especially as we are not ADA compliant on some streets. Stricter fines for vehicles blocking bike lanes.

How will you resolve policy issues and cases that come before you when the wishes of some incumbent residents in a neighborhood conflict with the interests of other residents and the larger, city-wide community?

Bobby Levinski

We need to get back to a place where we can disagree with our friends and agree with people outside our immediate circles. Having served as a policy advisor for almost a decade, I am someone who worked to create compromise and facilitate agreement where it seemed unlikely. I think it’s important to hear and try to be responsive to the concerns of all parties involved, and as a district representative we need to be stewards of our areas, but ultimately, the City Council has a responsibility to adopt policy that is reflective of our adopted comprehensive plan (Imagine Austin) and that will be benefit the City at large. I believe I am uniquely positioned, based on my many years of building relationships throughout the community, to be the bridge between sides that doesn’t exist right now.

Rich DePalma

My campaign slogan is solutions not politics. My policy approach on the Parks and Recreation Board and on the AISD Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee has mirrored that approach. To implement effective solutions all stakeholders must be heard, and the data must drive the solution. I will not kill a smart policy decision because someone has unwarranted fears. When concerns are reasonable, then those concerns should be addressed. Otherwise, the only thing I can do is to educate my constituents the best I can and then take the vote on what is best for Austin.

Paige Ellis

This will be more difficult now that our 1984 land development code rewrite has been delayed. Imagine Austin was adopted in 2012 as a blueprint of how we can make Austin better, and we are going to need to utilize the Concept Growth Plan which is also shown in the Strategic Housing Blueprint as part of our decision making process. Density needs to be allowed along urban transit corridors. Missing middle housing needs to be allowed in transition zones. Partnering these principles together with watershed protection zones will have to be the way to move forward.

What policies and approaches will you advocate to promote neighborhood improvement, and avoid neighborhood protectionism, as Austin changes and grows?

Bobby Levinski

We need to better utilize and empower our small area planning (including corridor planning) to get our residents involved in crafting policy to address our community’s goals. We should have metrics for projected growth, on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, and monitor our success in achieving these goals, so we can make adjustments. I have reviewed neighborhood plans in areas like Vancouver, and they are far beyond us in understanding how to pull those levers. I am very much supportive of infill and density along the corridors that can add to neighborhood character. I supported the proposed preservation bonus in 2015 to allow bigger ADUs, because I thought it was a well-balanced approach to accommodate more residents in an area while also preserving housing stock that was more affordable on a $/sq.ft. basis. As a renter who lives in a duplex, I understand the need for more types of housing, so younger families are able to stay in the City instead of being forced to move the suburbs for their only affordable options.

Rich DePalma

I support updating our neighborhood plans and FLUMS to reflect a new land development code. Our current plans were created under our current land development code and don’t provide the diversity of options that a new land development code can provide. We need to finish the work in improving our Watershed Protection Ordinance so properties with high impervious cover percentages can be redeveloped to reduce their impervious cover, incorporate the missing water quality controls and meet the needs of our community. I will advocate for policies that leverages our limited resources, adds housing, activates different transit modalities, protects our environment, and meets the needs of our future.

Paige Ellis

We have an opportunity here. There is a love of neighborhood character throughout Austin that newcomers and old timers both appreciate. If we can blend missing middle housing development like duplexes, quadplexes, and garden homes into the aesthetic our well-loved areas of town, we can preserve character while increasing the housing supply we desperately need. On the contrary, dense urban corridors have to be allowed to be our housing workhorses. They are built for this. Blending these concept together is how we achieve the various styles of desired housing and move toward the availability of walkable, connected corridors and transition zones.

What policies will you advocate to address the increasingly unaffordable housing, transportation, and utility costs that are economically segregating our neighborhoods?

Bobby Levinski

First, I support the geographic dispersion of income-restricted housing, and I support using Prop A to build publicly owned and managed housing in parts of the City that have too few housing options for lower-income residents, such as central and west Austin.

I also support reducing the City’s reliance on regressive, flat-rate fees (such as those on our utility bills) that have a disproportionate impact on lower-income families. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge here that the majority of our City residents are renters. When we think of cost of living reductions, we should also be factoring in how these policies would impact renters and their share of the collective tax burden. One area in particular that I would like to address to reduce the costs of living for renters would involve our utilities…the deposits and fee structures used by Austin Energy and the Water Utility take a huge hit on most renters’ budgets who often don’t much choice in moving when their lease ends. I have moved over a dozen times in the last decade or so. It’s expensive to be a renter, and I don’t feel like that is truly understood or appreciated by most policy makers.

Transportation: In the past, I had the opportunity to live car-free for two years, and that’s because I lived in a dense area, had a very convenient transit stop at the base of my building and was able to walk to work. I mention this, because I want to emphasize my understanding of how land use, density and transit accessibility has an impact on mobility. The only realistic solutions for improving mobility in our denser parts of town (e.g., Central Austin) are not reliant on single-occupancy vehicles.  Land use absolutely plays a role in enabling these options, such as permitting and supporting services (restaurants, retail, etc.) within walking distances for residents, as does investing in dedicated right-of-way for mass transit to make transit more realistic and beneficial for people, by improving speed and reliability.

Additionally, the City needs to be more flexible with regard to technological solutions. While I do not see electric scooters as some magical transit solution for the masses, it was disappointing to see so much time and resources put into setting up barriers for entry on an idea that can at least whittle away at the surface of our mobility problems. We don’t have all the answers yet, which means we need to be more open to ideas as they come. I know, for my own transit use, the availability of electric scooters has made it possible for me to get from meeting to meeting on opposite sides of downtown quickly, without needing to mess with parking, lugging around my bike or sweating from a 20-minute walk.

Rich DePalma

Affordability is a concern for many and we need to enact a comprehensive and common-sense strategy to address the challenges. To create affordable housing, whether market rate or subsidized affordable housing, we must: (i) increase housing supply, (ii) address land prices, (iii) reduce cost of construction and permitting, and (iv) reduce property taxes. We must also continue to invest in land acquisition, and rental housing development assistance.

Ultimately, one of the main reasons for our high taxes is the broken public-school funding formula. I’m the only candidate in the race who has testified at the state legislature on the impact the funding formula is having on affordability and on our facilities.

Other policies I support to increase affordable housing are:

  1. Expand renters assistance program to meet the need of the market.
  2. Expand utility assistance programs.
  3. Address household costs such as affordable childcare
  4. Enforce anti-discrimination laws
  5. Expanding the ability to use Tax Increment Financing for affordable housing to a possible 20% affordable housing TIF policy like San Antonio or Dallas.
  6. Implement public-private partnerships leveraging combinations of municipal loans, public land, HUD CDBG funding, TIF and payment in-lieu fees, nonprofit funding, and other tax incentives relating to materials and workforce. The city should determine best value through a public RFP process and not through a first in, first out grant funding process.

Regarding transportation, the City of Austin has a duty to guarantee safe, efficient, and equitable transportation options. Transportation should be addressed by making sure Austin residents have options for our daily trips to work, a store, the park, or a night out. Whether the option is car, walking, bus, rail, bike, or e-scooter; the options must be available, usable, and financially sustainable. Land use planning that includes building the density needed in transit corridors will help increase transit options, but it is certainly not enough. To relieve traffic and promote ridership, we need more Park and Rides and to expand Capital Metro service to outside of Austin. These types of measures will help make transit routes sustainable, reduce traffic coming into the city and provide additional options for downtown commutes.

Regarding utilities, I support our CAP Discounts, financial support programs, and weatherization programs. I also support moving toward a solar program (with possible layered funding from other programs) that would assist low-income individuals in adding solar to their homes where the roof, electrical, lighting and possibly mechanical also need to be upgraded.

Paige Ellis

Increased missing middle housing, We still don’t have safe walkable routes to school for many in Southwest Austin. I live in a development on the Concept Growth Plan, and the 30 bus route goes from my apartment to where I work. The only thing is, we have incomplete sidewalks, no crosswalks or stop signs, and terrible sight lines. I cannot safely get across the street without breaking the law or risking having to run out of the way of a speeding SUV.

District 9

What policies will you advocate to accommodate and welcome the full abundance and diversity of people who aspire to live in Austin’s neighborhoods?

Linda O’neal

Make Austin affordable again.  I am working to keep the working and creative classes in Austin. We must also demand that our taxing entities collaborate.  Another reason why our property taxes are so high is because of our five taxing entities. We have the City of Austin, Travis County, AISD, ACC, and Central Health and they do not collaborate with each other.  These taxing entities are doubling dipping.

The city has very little oversight over where our tax dollars are going.  In 2012, taxpayers authorized Central Health to give UT-Dell Medical Center $32 million a year to help cover the cost of health care for the poor. We are a giving community, but that money did not go to the poor. Instead, that money paid for the Dean’s faculty salaries, fundraising, and admissions.

We need to incentivize local landlords (both commercial and residential) to give longer leases. This is not rent control, this is rent stabilization.  We need to protect renters from steep, unexpected rent increases. Affordability is a nation-wide issue. Austin, and other cities are promoting density and encouraging developers to build affordable housing.  With little oversight and lack of transparency, there is a high potential for corruption. A special on PBS by Frontline: Poverty, Politics, and Profit, outlines how pervasive this problem is.

Also, our incentives to developers to build affordable housing is weak.  Austin offers developers, who build affordable housing into their units, an additional floor.  Often building an additional floor is too expensive and developers opt to pay the fee in leu. Under this current program, only 1,450 units of affordable housing will be built over the next decade. If we want to meet the needs of the city, that number needs to be around 60,000.  Real estate is market driven, especially in Texas, where there is very little protection offered to renters and buyers. This is why Code Next could never really offer affordable housing. Code Next is a market driven plan in a market driven state. Now, that said, we do need to change our land codes to accommodate our new residents.  By 2030, it is estimated that the population of Austin will be three million. Doing nothing is not an option and doing nothing will most definitely make this city unlivable.

That said, we can make Austin more affordable by revisiting lease-to-purchase options.  But we need to do so carefully, fiscally, and with complete transparency. During the nineties, Austin had a lease-to-purchase program called SCIP (Scattered Cooperative Infill Program).  Pamela Franklin was the only resident who qualified for the program over the fifteen-year period. When she tried to purchase her home, the city denied that the program had ever existed. When the city was proven wrong, they still tried to deny her the purchase of her home over a technicality.  Pamela Franklin had her day in court and won.

Although Austin tried and failed, we can look to Cleveland to get it done right.  Cleveland has the largest lease-to-purchase network, and the program is working. Over 80 percent of those who participated in the program have transitioned into homeownership. This is how the program works. The Cleveland Housing Network (CHN) uses Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to attract equity investors who, in exchange for the 15-year tax credits, help the Cleveland Housing Network to buy single-family rental properties. CHN then offers these homes for rent at an affordable price. At the end of the 15-years, renters who have successfully made it through the program are then able to purchase the home below the market value, usually for less than $20,000. The organization can keep the home purchase price low because the LIHTC credits allow it to buy the home without going into significant debt. Again, while I think that lease-to-purchase programs have significant positives, the city must be diligent and transparent.

Danielle Skidmore

I support the Affordable Housing bond proposal and more workforce housing in District 9. Workforce housing should include more multifamily housing: condos, townhouses, apartments, etc. I suggest three ways to help address the housing shortage: We must look at publicly owned land in District 9 being underutilized, create partnerships with local nonprofits (Affordable Central Texas, Habitat for Humanity, Foundation Communities, and community development corporations like Clarksville CDC), and we must ensure current tenants are able to stay in their homes. In order to do this, we need to expand the availability of ADUs (accessory dwelling units—think garage apartments) across District 9; the incumbent in our race has consistently voted against this effort to create more affordable units throughout the city.

We must also build a greater diversity of market rate housing options in our neighborhoods. This includes more duplexes, triplexes, and other “missing middle” choices that are nearly impossible to build in many parts of Austin.  These housing options can absolutely be constructed at a neighborhood scale, so that the character of the communities is not only maintained, but improved by increasing the diversity of residents.

In addition to housing supply, we can protect vulnerable tenants by strengthening public information campaigns run through BASTA to notify residents of tenants’ rights. Housing access not only means bringing new people into new housing, but helping current tenants navigate and exercise their rights. I recommend reviewing a blog post my team recently put out on converting underutilized city-owned land into real affordable housing here: https://www.danielleforall.com/blog/turf-underfoot-roofs-over-heads

How will you resolve policy issues and cases that come before you when the wishes of some incumbent residents in a neighborhood conflict with the interests of other residents and the larger, city-wide community?

Linda O’neal

Listen and negotiate.

Danielle Skidmore

The most likely example of this I see on the horizon is in regard to upcoming changes to our land development code. As an engineer who sees the growth challenges our city is facing—and as a former full-time West Austin resident who faced accessibility challenges to stay in our own home, when Peter and his wheelchair outgrew the stairs— I know the current issues we’re facing in affordability and mobility are real, and are the result of the current land development code and its shortcomings; they’re the result of us leaving problems unsolved. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we should give up, and as we make room for more Austinites, both immigrants and those born within our city, we owe it to ourselves to struggle through resolving what we’ve set out to do. For this to occur, the process must be inclusive and all voices must be heard… We must proactively reach out to all communities.

What policies and approaches will you advocate to promote neighborhood improvement, and avoid neighborhood protectionism, as Austin changes and grows?

Linda O’neal

YES… part of negotiating is that both sides give in a little.  If either side refuses to budge, then ultimately I will do what is best for the greater good.

Danielle Skidmore

My number one priority is serving as a bridge between the neighborhood preservation community and business/affordable housing communities—to ensure that the growth of our city and stewardship of residents’ well-being move forward using preservation as a lens to enhance our experience, rather than being viewed as a threat to growth.

I also recently moderated a panel on “Creating Space for Community” through intentional placemaking, and would plan to host additional events in this realm to bring outside community voices into the process and better promote this balance between old and new Austin. I understand folks’ viewpoint that preservation is more than just saving buildings. The perennial question that all cities have faced is the need to balance an appreciation of the past while also allowing for a city to grow and evolve organically. Neighborhoods are collections of people, not styles of housing. I will encourage a development strategy for the city that provides tools and resources to help protect iconic places and businesses, but also includes tools to support adding more housing in sustainable locations.

I grew up in an amazing house built at the turn of the last century, so I absolutely agree that we should rehabilitate existing structures whenever practical. Adaptive reuse of existing structures should be a community value. However In Old West Austin alone, over the last 7 years, 44 houses were demolished, with the new houses only added space for a dozen additional families (56 new house total).  If demotions do occur, the structures that replace them should come with real and tangible community benefits of increased housing and sustainable construction. Our current code is failing miserably in this regard.

What policies will you advocate to address the increasingly unaffordable housing, transportation, and utility costs that are economically segregating our neighborhoods?

Linda O’neal

This town is so white that it is hardly even segregated.  Our schools are still segregated. I’ve worked at Del Valle and Akins and there are hardly any white kids (that’s changing at Akins with new development).  We need to strongly encourage the district to rezone the schools so that our student body is more diverse.

Danielle Skidmore

My largest priorities on Council would be Housing and Transportation. In addition to the solutions mentioned above…

Housing: We need more housing of all types and market rates, especially in proximity to our transportation corridors. In addition, reliable, robust public transportation is a key component of a affordability. Since housing costs in central Austin will always be more expensive, providing workers and students with quick transportation connections will dramatically help with family budgets.

But we also need to consider intersectionality of transit with other barriers to quality of life, in order to improve mobility more broadly within the city—such as ensuring childcare options are available at or adjacent to major employment centers or within neighborhoods. This will keep family commutes simpler, by reducing additional trips. One the most significant reasons people give for NOT choosing a transit option is the need to make that additional stop for childcare, so we can solve two major issues facing Austin’s families by thinking about these solutions intersectionally.

Transportation and Utilities: The quality of life for those who live in District 9 and across Austin has diminished as our city becomes less and less affordable. Austinites are forced to move to less expensive housing that is farther from their place of work or school, imposing a large financial strain on their budget as purchasing a car is often the only viable option. Major employment centers (UT, the Capitol, downtown) are more accessible to those who live in central Austin, but youth and folks without unlimited income have been pushed out of these neighborhoods due to rising costs of living. Providing more, faster ways to bring workers to their jobs, or students to their classes, will improve their quality of life. As a civil engineer practicing professionally for almost 25 years, I have used my background to move transportation forward (pun intended) in a variety of ways. I have long been an advocate for more sustainable roadway designs, which enhance safety, reduce unnecessary impervious cover (i.e. reduce the need for new concrete!) and congestion delay. It is through this work that I deeply appreciate the challenges of helping elected officials make the most sustainable decisions about our infrastructure investments, and understand how building new roads—or expanding old ones—is not the answer. We must go big on transit, but for that to happen we need someone with not only the skillset but the political will to make expanding public transportation a priority that Austin is willing to fight for.

Environmentally sustainable developments, which minimize utility consumption are a key component of affordability. The most sustainable housing in a urban environment are multifamily structures built to modern ‘green’ building practices. Foundation Communities M Station apartments are a good example of affordable housing built to reduce total costs to the renters.