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Austin mayor seeks $500M bond to help ease housing crunch

(Bloomberg) — Austin Mayor Steve Adler wants the Texas city to borrow half a billion dollars to help build more affordable housing as rising real estate prices threaten to push out the middle class.

“It’s our existential challenge right now,” Adler said in an interview outside his downtown condo on Monday. “Austin is building more homes per capita than any other city in the country, and that’s still not enough.”

Adler, 65, and in his eighth and final year as mayor, plans to push for $300 million to $500 million of bond sales to provide relief from average home prices, which have risen by about 20% over the past year. % jumped to $568,000. He doesn’t want to curb the city’s rapid growth — it posted the fastest population growth among major US cities during the decade through 2020 — but says there is a need for cheap housing for creative types who have “keep Austin weird”. Inspired the informal motto of. ,

“The only way to stop development is to make it an undesirable place to live, and I don’t want to be that mayor,” Adler said.

The mayor aims to get vote approval for the bond during November’s election, although he cautioned that it is “too early” in the planning phase. There has been no review of what the city’s bonding capacity might be without additional taxes, he said.

Austin has lured companies including Tesla Inc., Oracle Corp. and several smaller startups to set up headquarters, while tech giants including Meta Platform Inc and Alphabet Inc also have a large presence. Transplants enjoy zero income taxes, mild winter climates, a relaxed regulatory environment and still relatively low cost of living versus coastal cities. The University of Texas’ premier campus offers a pipeline of graduate talent. With an increase of 22% over the past decade, it has helped increase the city’s population to around 962,000.

The influx of hi-tech companies has brought with it well-paid employees. Adler says the city now needs to prioritize creating conditions that foster more jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree but pay a deliverable salary.

“We have a lot of jobs that pay $150,000 and above in the tech industry,” Adler said. “We need medium-skill jobs in this city.”

Adler said he expects jobs like these to be created at Tesla’s Gigafactory plant as well as Samsung Electronics Co.’s recently announced $17 billion chip factory in Taylor, a city about 45 minutes from Austin. Is.

development risk

Adler says some of the socially conservative laws that Republicans have pushed through the state legislature could make it harder for businesses to woo into the field, especially those competing to hire highly educated professionals. are. Companies including Microsoft Corp. and American Airlines Group Inc. The U.S. has voiced opposition to efforts to limit voting rights, and others have criticized laws that some see as discriminatory against transgender people. Last year, the state enacted one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, prompting another round of criticism.

“There are businesses that have offered to let employees live elsewhere and get paid for that,” Adler said. “I hear some national companies question what made the decision to move to Austin.”

That said, it is difficult to find many specific examples of major employers deciding not to come to Texas because of politics. And for many individuals, the calculus for a step is more nuanced than whether a state is dominated by Republicans or Democrats.

For now, while Austin can compete against other major cities for talent, “Austin is doing a really good job of being there,” Adler said. “People who choose to live here choose to live in a highly creative, entrepreneurial, innovative, risk-taking place.”

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