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A Second Chance For Austin's Only Failed Bond Proposal
The only bond package turned down by voters in November provided funding for affordable housing. Now, Austin City Council wants a second chance with voters.
"We all need the same things: a safe place to sleep, a chance to get on our feet, and access to affordable housing," said Jennifer Parker, one of Austin's many homeless women in Austin.
Parker is currently sleeping at the Salvation Army. She spoke to a crowd of community members Saturday about the need for more shelters and transitional housing to keep the homeless off the streets.
"My homeless sisters suffer from broken marriages, bad relationships, lack of good paying jobs, high cost of living, and illness," Parker explained the crowd gathered at an Austin church.
But it's not just women who are in need of housing; Austin's schools have approximately 2,000 homeless children and there are veterans and elderly in desperate need. It's for all of these people that Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said she will once again ask voters for funding for affordable housing.
"That proposition's failure [Prop. 15 on the November 2012 ballot] has caused us to have to look deeply at our core values and our commitment," said Cole of the failure of funds for affordable housing.
Cole, along with city councilmembers Bill Spelman and Chris Riley, are supporting another bond election in November 2013 to address funding needs for housing. But this time around, the pitch to voters will have a different focus in hopes of generating more support.
"Not only is it the morally right thing to do," said Councilmen Spelman. "It's also good for you and me. Even if we're never going to need affordable housing, my life would be materially better off if my neighbor gets access to housing."
City leaders point to fewer people in emergency rooms, less crime as reason for voters to support the new bond package. They're also making sure voters know that people, like Parker, using the affordable housing program will be working and paying some rent.
"With four months of steady work under my belt, I'm ready to move up and hopefully move out into my own place soon," said Parker.
Parker has been successful in getting off the streets through a work program with the Salvation Army. She's hoping the city will now lend a hand, giving her an affordable housing option, as she gets back on her feet.
"I pray that safe, decent housing exists that I can afford working for a minimum wage. I'm a hard worker and would be a good neighbor," said Parker.
The new affordable housing proposal would go on the ballot during a special election in November 2013. Details of how much it would cost taxpayers and what programs would be funded, are still being worked out.