Use of CDBG Funds

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:

  1. Continue to prioritize affordable housing for CDBG fund use.
  2. 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.
  3. Provide additional resources and  information to housers  about  possible uses for  CDBG funds to  increase their  impact on  our affordable housing  crisis.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.