Last November, Austin voters rejected a $78.3 million bond proposal that would have funded the creation and subsidy of 3,500 affordable units for low-income families by a margin of 51-49. Mayor Lee Leffingwell called it a dark spot” in an “almost perfect” election night. It was the only of the 18 Austin ballot initiatives that failed to pass, and its defeat remains somewhat of a mystery.
Some think the ballot failed because of good, old-fashioned opposition: a hefty price tag, stereotypes about low-income housing and a campaign too weak to overcome either of these. Chris Bradford, who studies Austin demographics, noticed that, “Prop 15 was so geographically polarized. Almost all of central and east Austin supported or strongly supported Prop 15. The support dropped with distance from City Hall.” The map he compiled below illustrates the point quite nicely, and suggests maybe voters in the 'burbs have a not-in-my-backyard attitude about affordable housing.
On the other hand, some believe it failed because of confusing wording, which left off the fact that the bond would support affordable housing (as opposed to housing generally). And indeed, a February 2013 poll from Opinion Analysts indicates that Austin overwhelmingly does support affordable housing. From HousingWorks Austin and the End Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO):
“Despite the extremely narrow loss of the affordable housing bonds in the November 2012 election, a recent poll shows a majority of Austin voters still believe the city must act on affordable housing and would support a housing bond on an upcoming ballot.
The survey of 502 registered Austin voters showed 69% want the City to take action on affordable housing and 63% believe it is a financial priority while 70% want affordable housing in their part of the city and 87% think the community is better off when low wage families can find an affordable place to live… 55% of voters polled said they would vote for a $60 million bond for affordable housing if it were put on the ballot this November.“
So affordable housing advocates may have room to be optimistic about the bond's chances despite November's disappointing results. In the meantime, you may want to chat with your friends in West Austin.