July 15, 2022 9:00am

Austin's Power Poll Members favor $500 million affordable housing bond, will suffer the heat

Thirty percent of members have contemplated selling their home in Austin's sizzling real estate market

Photo of Andrea Zelinski
Austin, TX Correspondent
 

The majority of Austin’s Power Poll members want to see the city pass a $500 million housing bond to increase the city’s affordable housing supply.

Speaking of housing, nearly one-third of members were so tempted to sell their home that they either contemplated it or sold it. When it comes to the heat, the vast majority say it doesn’t scare them away from living in Texas – or if it does, they still don’t think they’d move.

Here are the questions we asked in the July Power Poll:

CONTEXT

This month’s survey was a talker among Power Poll members. First was the discussion over a $500 million bond to take the stress off Austin’s dearth of affording housing.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler in January floated the idea of an affordable housing bond amid soaring home prices. At the time, the Austin Board of Realtors reported the median home price in the Austin-Round Rock area as $450,000, growing 31% between 2020 and 2021, reported KXAN. Such growth has made selling a home in the Austin area attractive to three in 10 Power Poll members, although just 5% of Power Poll members pulled the trigger.

In recent weeks, Adler told the Austin Chronicle he wants to put a $300 million bond on the Nov. 8 ballot, saying, "It seems there's considerable and widespread community support” and “there's certainly a critical need."

Said Power Poll member and Austin ISD Board President Geronimo Rodriguez, “I would support a $300M affordability bond with no new tax increases focused on workforce and affordable housing.”

Power Poll member, real estate agent and Director of Expansion at PorchLight Austin Crystal Weigle, countered: “Without seeing how the city plans to spend $500M, I can’t say if it would actually help solve the problem.”

The week this poll hit Power Poll member’s email boxes, Austin’s temperatures soared as high as 109.9 degrees at Camp Mabry, just one in a stream of days exceeding 100 degrees.

The temperature was so extreme that the Austin Symphony canceled three of its five Hartman Foundation concerts in the park for the first time in 20 years. The extreme temperatures were so hot it could ruin the instruments, the conductor and director told ABC News

A professor of geological sciences and environmental engineering at UT Austin explained to KUT the city can expect a 1- to 3-degree bump in temperature in the next 10 years if population growth and the proximity of individuals and buildings increase, along with emissions.

Power Poll member Dale Ricklefs, co-founder and past president of Round Rock Arts, said she and her family will move to Oregon in the next two years. Her family has lived in the Austin area since 1975.

The reasons are not just the heat and perceived lack of water, she said.

“But our primary concern is the changes in politics to what we perceive is the Talibanization of Texas politics where fundamentalism and hatred of others are being enacted into law or decrees by the governor or lieutenant governor, rather than let it bubble through the legislators we vote for,” she said.

Others say they will stay and sweat it out.

"Any weather is much more bearable when you have confidence that your local infrastructure is reasonably prepared for it," said Joel Coffman, executive director at RecognizeGood. "I'm prepared to stay and be part of the solution, although I'm in my 30s so I understand those in a position to leave -- for the same reason, any soothing feeling brought on by temptation to sell our home is offset by the knowledge that buying in the area will hurt even more."

Another member shared his remedy for coping with the heat: "I've found working remotely in a cooler location for about a month helps prevent the burnout that comes from Austin's summers," said Eric Bandholz, founder and CEO at BeardBrand.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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