Habitat for Humanity campaigns for $250 million housing bond

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In advance of the Nov. 6 election, UT’s Habitat for Humanity is campaigning for students to vote for a $250 million bond that aims to make Austin housing more affordable.

Proposition A allocates the majority of the bond to land acquisition and rental assistance programs. Ashish Chowdary, advocacy chair for UT Habitat for Humanity, said the proposition is likely to help student renters.

“I know everyone likes to complain about how West Campus costs are ridiculous,” biology junior Chowdary said. “If Proposition A were to pass, that has a possibility of reducing some of the rent.”

Chowdary said the UT branch will be hosting phone banks, conducting door-to-door campaigning and tabling around campus in hopes of raising awareness to students.

The city-wide campaign efforts have been led by Austin’s Habitat for Humanity and Keep Austin Affordable, an education initiative for affordable housing in Austin. Greg Anderson, director of community affairs for Austin’s Habitat for Humanity, said the campaign focuses on appealing to low income voters.

“When you only allow for developers to build for the top 20 percent of income earners, that’s failing Austin as a whole,” Anderson said. “That’s one of the reasons why this housing bond is going to be critical for these hard-working families to be able to stay in the city.” 

The campaign’s biggest opposers are those who do not wish to see more housing developments near single-family homes, Anderson said. According to the financial services of the City of Austin, Proposition A would be funded through an increase in property taxes.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Austin’s median gross rent has been rising for the past decade. The number of affordable residential units funded through local and federal government has also risen since 2014 due to a 2013 proposition dedicated to affordable housing. 

Architecture adjunct associate professor Barbara Hoidn has experience in city planning from her time at the Berlin Senate’s Department for Urban Development, and said she has seen costs reduced through land acquisition and price fixing. 

“The solutions we are trying in Berlin are that the city is trying to get hold of some pieces of land … and to develop them at a reduced price,” Hoidn said. “The city can set the rules or at least ask for a portion of the shares. The key issue is the ownership of land.”