Dear Mayor and Council Members,
The Austin Housing Coalition (formerly the CHDO Roundtable) has represented the community of “housers” across Austin and Central Texas since its founding in 2003. We are nonprofit housing developers, housing and policy experts, and other interested organizations, businesses, and residents who support the development of safe, affordable housing for Austin residents. Our members work to house people experiencing homelessness, repair the houses of low-‐income homeowners, provide quality affordable rental housing, and empower low-‐income households to become successful, first-‐time homebuyers.
We want to express our comments on item 88 of the September, 9 2019 council agenda to eliminate limits on the use of CDBG funds for food retail. While we see the detrimental impact gaps in healthy and affordable food access has in our community and wholeheartedly support efforts tor educe the inequitable health outcomes that result from this, we also recognize that our city is still experiencing a dire affordable housing crisis. We support the use of tools appropriate to address each issue, but not to the detriment of the other.
Community Development Block Grant funds are an essential tool for producing affordable housing in the Austin community and we believe this should remain its primary purpose. We offer the following comments for consideration:
- Continue to prioritize affordable housing for CDBG fund use.
- Encourage leveraging investments in both housing and healthy food access such that these efforts coordinate with and complement one another to meet community needs. This is similar to the leveraging required by the Strategic Housing Blueprint Implementation Plan for transit corridor investments.
- Provide additional resources and information to housers about possible uses for CDBG funds to increase their impact on our affordable housing crisis.
- Ensure that the best type of funding is used for the specific need. For example, in some situations using CDBG funds for land acquisition and site development work may be more appropriate than using voter proved G. O. Bonds.
- Increase transparency and information related to all the various types of funds currently available for affordable housing production so that developers are nowledgeable about the amounts and best uses of those funds.
Additionally, we request that the Austin Housing Coalition remain part of the ongoing conversation about the use of CDBG funds in the future. Thank you very much for your consideration and continued work to meet the housing and food access needs in our community.