Clergy & Lay Leaders Stand Up Against Housing Discrimination...and Win!

1404 - S8 - Evita CruzWith 9 out of 10 apartment owners turning away Section 8 voucher users, single mothers like Evita Cruz have few options about where to live.  This affects what school her daughter attends, how far she travels for work and how safe she feels in her neighborhood.  During Holy Week, Austin Interfaith clergy and lay leadership stood up for people like Evita to demand that the council advance a resolution that would prohibit discrimination based on Section 8 vouchers.  Council responded with a 6-0 vote, directing the City Manager to draft language for a formal policy proposal.  In photo, Evita Cruz tells her story.  More photos here

Council Approves Voucher OrdinanceKVUE-ABC 

Council Passes Resolution to End Housing Discrimination, KXAN

Council Could Ban Landlords from Section 8 DiscriminationTime Warner Cable News

Council: Getting a Round TuitAustin Chronicle

Policy Austin City Council Says Landlords Can't Discriminate Against Housing Voucher-HoldersAustin American Statesman

Reverend John Elford's Remarks

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Austin's Rising Cost of Living Raises Questions About Who Can Live Here

The rising cost of living in Austin, though perhaps an inevitable twin to the city’s success, undercuts some of the notions ingrained in the city’s ethos: that growth shouldn’t strain longtime residents; that families are an essential part of the social fabric; and that Austin is an egalitarian, socially conscious, arms-open place where anyone can make it, be they starving artist or teacher or tech investor.

“We have a wide range of congregations, in all nooks and crannies of Austin, across all socioeconomic classifications, and all of them are saying the same thing,” said Bob Batlan, an organizer with Austin Interfaith, a network of churches, unions and schools that has made affordability a top priority. “They’re all telling us Austin is becoming less affordable, for just about everybody. And we need to do something about it.”

Austin's Rising Cost of Living Raises Questions About Who Can Live Here, Austin American Statesman 

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Austin Interfaith Saves Affordable Housing in Oak Creek Village

Koreena Malone, President of Oak Creek Village Tenant's Association, Capital IDEA Graduate, Austin Interfaith leader.Koreena Malone, president of the Oak Creek Tenants Association, helped save affordable housing in Oak Creek Cillage by crafting a cohesive agreement on proposed redevelopment in partnership with the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association, the tenants association, Travis Heights Elementary School, the developer and Austin Interfaith.  ’I strongly believe that the redevelopment of Oak Creek Village won’t just lead us to a better community but a model for the city of Austin,’ Malone said. 

The Oak Creek Village complex, located at 2324 Wilson St., has 173 units that qualify as affordable housing. According to city documents, the developer is planning to keep all of the affordable housing units in the complex and build up to 313 new market-rate units…The developer also entered into an agreement … to provide on-site, affordable housing for 35 years. Said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, an Austin resident and leader of Austin Interfaith,… ‘It will lead to a more livable neighborhood and will lead to a more livable Austin.’”

As Austin Becomes More Expensive, Some Fight to Keep It AffordableAustin American Statesman [pdf]

For One Austin School, Funding Hangs on Affordable Housing, KUT

Oak Creek Village Strikes a New Deal, Austin Chronicle

Oak Creek Village Redevelopment Approved by Austin City Council, Community Impact News

Exiled From Main Street, Austin Chronicle

Video Testimony of Leaders at City Hall, Austin City Council Recorded Session

 

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Leaders Assist in Flooded Areas

1311 - Onion Creek Flooding Assistance"Austin Interfaith volunteers handed out blankets, towels and food Tuesday evening. They say flood victims need more donations including heaters. "So many people still need so much help," said Ofelia Zapata."

Flood Victims Brace for Cold, KVUE

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Politics and Faith Intertwine When Doing Social Justice

Reverend John Elford of the University United Methodist Church asserts that politics and faith do mix when it comes to social justice.  In an editorial for the Austin American Statesman he reveals that "A couple of years ago, with the help of Austin Interfaith, we had several meetings with folks who are homeless. We listened to their concerns about life on the streets. I vividly recall one meeting..."  He goes on to describe how congregations from Central Austin came together to support the recent passage of the affordable housing bond.

Read More Here, Austin American Statesman [pdf]

Austin Housing Bond Heads Towards Approval, Austin American Statesman

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City of Austin Passes Historic Living Wage Ordinance

City of Austin passes historic living wage ordinance. Photo by Alberto Martinez, Austin American StatesmanAustin Interfaith leaders celebrated the passage of a historic living wage ordinance they had fought for over the course of five years.  Institutional representatives from congregations, schools and workers associations challenged city council candidates in 2012 to craft an ordinance requiring that jobs emerging from taxpayer incentives pay at least a living wage or prevailing wage, if higher.  An economic incentive team put together language, which included an exception process, that was later adopted by a Special Committee on Economic Incentives and proposed by Councilmembers Martinez, Tovo and Morrison Thursday night.  Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez intervened reading a statement of support for the ordinance at a 6pm rally, which was later read by an Austin Interfaith leader in Council chambers.  After four hours of testimony and debate, the City of Austin passed, for the first time ever, a requirement that corporations receiving tapayer incentives be required to pay the City established living wage of $11 per hour or prevailling wages, whichever is higher.   

Council OKs Economic Incentive RulesAustin American Statesman [pdf]

Then There’s This: A ‘Decent Wage’Austin Chronicle

In Austin, Workers Score BigTexas Observer

Living Wages in AustinAustin Interfaith

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Austin to Decide on Tax Deals & Living Wage

City councilmembers will vote Thursday on a long-debated initiative requiring that corporations that receive public subsidies pay the prevailing wage or at least $11 per hour (the City and County established living wage) -- something that "groups such as Austin Interfaith and the Austin-based Workers Defense Project have been seeking for years."

Economic incentives has been a key issue in prior elections.  Austin Interfaith has been working on this issue since 2008. 

City May Set $11 Wage for Tax DealsAustin American Statesman

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Chamber Leaders Join Central Texas Clergy in Immigration Education Effort

131006 - Clergy - Immigration EventFor the first time in Central Texas, leaders from two Chambers of Commerce joined clergy from Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith traditions for an afternoon of education about economic, business and legal perspectives on immigration reform.  This second event in a campaign organized by clergy leadership, drew 220 participants — about twice as many as the first one.  Testimonies from workers, divided families and DACA leaders highlighted the human cost; presentations by business leaders and legal experts outlined the economic and business costs of a lack of reform.  All urged participants to meet with their legislative representatives and to demonstrate a constituency of voters that support compassionate reform. 

Austin Interfaith Hosts Immigration Reform EventAustin American Statesman

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Organized Constituencies Carry the Day

"Austin Interfaith leaders mobilized members to show up en masse to city budget hearings to plug these programs, meet with council members and bombard council offices with calls and emails in the days leading up to the final budget vote.

The nonprofit was elated that council members agreed to spend money on all of Austin Interfaith’s priorities, totaling $2.4 million.

Austin Interfaith and the parks coalition “were effective because they were very diverse, broad-based groups that had a clear message: that as a world-class city, we should be able to fund some of these critical needs better,” City Council Member Kathie Tovo said."

Organized Groups Won the Day in Austin Budget VoteAustin American Statesman

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City Council Adopts Budget with Austin Interfaith Priorities

"The Austin City Council has adopted its budget for the next fiscal year. For the first time in more than a decade, the council lowered Austin’s tax rate, [putting] the budget for next fiscal year just under $800 million. It is money that will bolster five initiatives Reverend Sandy Jones and Austin Interfaith advocated for. Jones is especially grateful for an additional $350,000 that will restart after-school programs... They're programs that were slashed during the recession and are just now being restored. "They do listen, and they do trust us with the ideas that we bring to them," Jones said. "It showed that they care about our youth. They care about the instruction of the youth in our community."

Austin City Council Adopts New Budget, Austin YNN Austin Interfaith Recognizes Council For Investing in All PrioritiesAustin Interfaith
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