On Proposition A

Dealing with a work fire but this comment from Austin’s only good urbanist group deserved something more visible/accessible….


The housing bond is dumb when it doesn’t focus primarily on new supply.

In a city with 10 houses and 15 people that need houses, we start with 10 people in houses and 5 people homeless; and the 10 people with houses are the ones that had more money than the 5 homeless people.

Taking 2 of the houses off the market and reserving them for the 2 poorest people just makes people 6 and 7 suddenly homeless. It doesn’t house any new people; it actually spends money and we still end up with 10 people in houses and 5 people homeless. We are actually worse off overall, not better, and the people the most worse off are the poorest people who were able to afford housing before.

New supply doesn’t mean “build income-restricted apartments on a tract that was already zoned MF that the market would have gotten to soon anyways”. It doesn’t mean “take an existing apartment complex that has low rents and is in danger of being redeveloped off the market”. Neither one of those actually adds supply.

When the mayor cravenly surrendered on CodeNEXT, he made it even more clear that Proposition A would arguably make things worse. If your goal is to increase a regressive tax to pay to take the poorest N people currently served by the market and replace them with a different N of poorer people, then Proposition A is worth your support.

  • Yep – we need massive new supply (accomplished through both Missing Middle and especially dense apartments/condos).

    And over time, we need to trust that huge supply increase + filtering will allow for a range of people/families to be able to live in the central core.

    • In my example above, if you add 4 units through the market, I’m willing to listen about adding 1 unit through public funding.

      OR, if you have 16 units and 15 people needing housing but for whatever reason 1 remains homeless, I’m willing to listen to subsidizing/reserving a unit for that 1 person.

      But when we’re so obviously and severely supply-constrained, reserving units without massive supply increases only makes things worse.