A key part of any change agenda this year has to focus on affordability. We must make Austin affordable for people who live in Austin, and we need to build ladders of opportunity for communities that historically have been cut off.
If we’re going to change in a way that promotes affordability the Austin way, first we’re going to have to have a clear-eyed talk about housing and housing supply. Where we build it, where we preserve it, where we keep it affordable, and how we make it easier to remodel and to build the housing stock we need.
We also need to harness the power of the current real estate market to prevent the loss of affordable, middle-income apartments. Last year, I said we were going to join in the work being done in the community to create a strike fund to buy and preserve and protect some of our existing workforce housing before we lost it to gentrification. This year, I gathered a group of real estate investment and housing experts to create a socially responsible investment fund to preserve that portion of the workforce housing in our city. This was to be done as a market driven investment — neither subsidized nor philanthropic and not at taxpayer cost.
Tonight, I’m happy to announce for the first time that the group we convened has created a non-profit called the “Affordable Central Texas.” This will be the operating company that will administer the private investment fund to be called the “Austin Affordable Fund” that will purchase and preserve middle-income housing.
We are working with investors now, and before the end of the year, I fully expect that the Austin Affordable Fund will make its first purchase and begin to protect long-term affordability in Austin.
Helping people make more money is all about jobs and job training. To reduce income inequality and to create opportunities more broadly and equitably so more people can afford to stay in Austin, we need to restructure how we attract new jobs and new job training opportunities to Austin. One element of this effort will be to fundamentally reform our economic incentive programs in Austin.
We’ve got tens of thousands of people in this city living in zip codes that weren’t zoned for opportunity. Most of those zip codes are located in the Eastern Crescent of our city. This is one reason why America’s favorite boomtown ends up as the most economically segregated city in the country.
These people – our neighbors, fellow Austinites – need middle-income jobs, and the training and experience needed to qualify for those jobs. I want to target economic incentives Right. At. Them.
Since this is Austin, the change agenda’s focus on affordability must also deal with challenges in our local music industry and with our creative arts. SXSW and ACL are booming, but we’re losing creatives as we lose creative opportunities in an ever more expensive city.
We must manage growth to help live music in the Live Music Capital of the World. If we fail, Austin will never produce another Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn or Manuel Donley. Affordable music venues are incubators that allowed Grupo Fantasma, Spoon, and Gary Clark Jr. to develop their craft before launching on the world. This is equally true for the visual and performing arts.