From left, Austin City Council members Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Delia Garza and Greg Casar speak at the city of Austin 2018 Fair Housing Summit on Tuesday. The three council members announced an initiative they are calling the Housing Justice Agenda, which will push a $300 million housing bond and other things like affordability in CodeNext. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Before three Austin City Council members announced their plan to combat the city’s affordability crisis, Lori Cervenak-Renteria wanted to pay homage to a stuffed goose named Homer.
Homer lived to be 27, and for many of those years, the goose was the city’s mascot for homelessness in Austin. He even had a song, which Cervenak-Renteria, City Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria’s wife, sang Tuesday to a small group of attendees in a cavernous exhibit hall at the Austin Convention Center.
“Homer on the range, where that dear little gosling must pay, where often is heard, from the web-footed bird said me help the homeless today,” Cervenak-Renteria sang to the tune of “Home on the Range.”
Perhaps Homer would have endorsed the slate of policy ideas shared Tuesday, when Renteria, along with Council Members Greg Casar and Delia Garza, announced they will work as a united voting bloc on creating affordable housing.
“We are in a position where we have this opportunity to change the narrative, and part of that is changing how we do affordable housing,” Garza said.
Casar, Garza and Renteria’s seven-point plan includes increasing density and affordability through the city’s land-use rewrite, CodeNext, as well as a push for an affordable housing bond as high as $300 million for November’s election.
Other priorities in their policy agenda include building affordable housing across all of Austin, not just in their districts. They also floated creating protections for renters that would force developers to pay relocation fees for displaced tenants and requiring low income housing vouchers to be accepted for all developments under city incentive programs.
“If we are really going to be progressive, we need to opt in to progressive changes and not just say we support them,” Garza said.
Casar, Garza and Renteria represent the three City Council districts with the lowest average income and densest Latino populations. Gentrification and rocketing home values have transformed some of those neighborhoods in Southeast, East, Northeast and North Austin.
The three council members announced their policy goals during a panel at the Fair Housing Summit, which is held this week at the Austin Convention Center to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act. Other speakers at the Fair Housing Summit on Tuesday included former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who is currently a faculty member at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs.