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
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 Affordable, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
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
"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."
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.
Austin Housing Bond Heads Towards Approval, Austin American Statesman
Austin 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.
Then There’s This: A ‘Decent Wage’, Austin Chronicle
In Austin, Workers Score Big, Texas Observer
Living Wages in Austin, Austin Interfaith
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 Deals, Austin American Statesman
"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 Vote, Austin American Statesman
"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 Priorities, Austin Interfaith
Contact: Bob Batlan (512) 796 1533 - Jim O'Quinn (512) 589 2838
Austin Interfaith Recognizes Council Members for Investing in All Budget Priorities
Austin Interfaith commends council members for approving the reallocation of over a million dollars in the 2013-2014 budget to workforce development and youth programs at parks, schools and libraries while decreasing the tax rate. This is an investment in our children, youth and future skilled workforce.
"Today's decisions are a victory for Austin's future generation--because they're going to have more story times at the library, more hours at the pool and enriching classes after school. We want to see our future doctors, lawyers, and artists come from our own communities, families and education system," said Austin Interfaith leader Reverend Sandy Jones of Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
Austin Interfaith Budget Priorities:
- Primetime Afterschool - $350,000
Restore funding for AISD youth programs.
- Austin Public Libraries - $307,490
Support youth literacy by funding bilingual outreach and children's librarians.
- Capital IDEA - $200,000
Invest a total of $1.13 million in economic development that can end the cycle of poverty.
- Parks and Recreation - $1.455 Million
Provide equitable parks and park programming by investing in underserved parks and pools.
- Summer Youth Employment - $72,000
Restore funding for summer youth programs.
Thank you to council members Martinez, Morrison and Tovo for making the motions to fund these priorities.