Austin City Coun­cil shelves af­ford­abil­ity ac­tion plan,

Al­ter was key vote in 6-5 de­feat of plan backed by busi­ness.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Tay­lor Gold­en­stein tgold­en­stein@states­man. com Con­tact Tay­lor Gold­en­stein at 512-445-3972.

Austin City Coun­cil Mem­ber Ali­son Al­ter cast the de­cid­ing vote Thurs­day to shelve an af­ford­abil­ity ac­tion plan cham­pi­oned by Coun­cil Mem­ber Ellen Trox­clair and four of her col­leagues, in­clud­ing the mayor.

The coun­cil voted 6-5 to in­def­i­nitely post­pone the plan, which orig­i­nated with a push from the Greater Austin Cham­ber of Com­merce and a coali­tion of busi­ness and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Sev­eral of those or­ga­ni­za­tions spoke in fa­vor of the plan Thurs­day, while oth­ers, in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Austin In­ter­faith and a worker’s de­fense group, said they didn’t feel rep­re­sented.

The plan would have cre­ated an af­ford­abil­ity man­i­festo that in­cluded rec­om­men­da­tions to ag­gres­sively build more hous­ing, consider a bud­get op­tion keep­ing prop­erty taxes flat and ap­prove an al­ready-started re­form of the city’s per­mit­ting process, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pol­icy and land de­vel­op­ment code.

Coun­cil mem­bers who op­posed the plan ex­pressed con­cerns about im­pos­ing bud­get con­straints on them­selves. They also pointed out that the plan in­cluded many ini­tia­tives the coun­cil al­ready had put in place.

While sev­eral of the coun­cil mem­bers sup­port­ing in­def­i­nite post­pone­ment weren’t against re­vis­it­ing the plan, Trox­clair said she felt nor­mally such a post­pone­ment is taken “be­cause we want it to go away and die and we don’t want to have to deal with it again.”

“I wish that I could think of a less dras­tic way to say it, but I think that it (in­def­i­nite post­pone­ment) would be a slap in the face to the com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions who have ... had all these dis­cus­sions to sup­port this,” Trox­clair said.

The plan’s fail­ure ul­ti­mately came down to Al­ter’s vote af­ter Coun­cil Mem­bers Delia Garza, Les­lie Pool, Kathie Tovo, Greg Casar and Sabino “Pio” Ren­te­ria voiced op­po­si­tion.

Al­ter said she was un­clear on what the plan would ac­com­plish and needed more time to go over it be­fore she could sup­port it.

“I think we need to move from plan­ning to ac­tion,” Al­ter said. “I’m not ex­actly sure that this res­o­lu­tion as it stands gets us to ac­tion. I’m a lit­tle con­cerned that it’s just more plan­ning.”

Garza made the mo­tion Thurs­day to post­pone the item in­def­i­nitely. She echoed the con­cerns she raised at Tues­day’s work ses­sion that even draft­ing a bud­get at the ef­fec­tive tax rate, which would en­tail no in­crease in the bill for tax­pay­ers, was an un­re­al­is­tic ex­er­cise.

“I wish I could prom­ise my con­stituents that I will never have to raise your taxes, but the re­al­ity is we have so many needs,” Garza said. “If we want to pass a bud­get at the ef­fec­tive tax rate, there are very big things that couldn’t hap­pen.”

Pool said her main con­cern was the pos­si­bil­ity for the plan to give the im­pres­sion that the coun­cil had not been proac­tive about the is­sue. Sev­eral coun­cil mem­bers ar­gued they have taken nu­mer­ous steps to ad­dress af­ford­abil­ity, from ask­ing for more af­ford­able hous­ing units from de­vel­op­ers to ap­prov­ing so­cial ser­vice fund­ing for needy fam­i­lies.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the per­cep­tion in our com­mu­nity is that we haven’t been do­ing things, and I think that that is what trou­bles me the very most about this whole process,” Pool said. “I re­ally wish this hadn’t come to us in this form.”

The plan would have cre­ated a man­i­festo call­ing for more hous­ing, flat prop­erty taxes, and per­mit re­forms.

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