Council members discuss housing affordability, 10-1 system

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Austin City Council members (seen left to right) Delia Garza, Gregorio Casar and Sabino Pio Renteria gathered Tuesday evening to discuss how the Council has changed under the 10-1 system.
Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

Concerned with City Council plans to tackle housing affordability, members of Austin Young Democrats gathered Tuesday to hear Council members discuss how the Council has changed under the 10-1 system.

With the new 10-1 system, voters elect the mayor at-large and 10 members from separately drawn districts. Previously, voters elected the Council’s six members at-large. Throughout the event, the Council members said the system has allowed for more diversity when discussing the big issues facing the city.

Gregorio Casar, who represents parts of North Austin in District 4, said the 10-1 system has forced Council members to represent their constituents well but also to think about the concerns of other districts, especially when considering issues such as housing.

“There are lots of good things about the 10-1 system,” Casar said. “At the same time, if we can’t, as progressives, build the constituency that’s looking towards the future and really big progressive ideals, then it’s easier for us to retrieve into the smaller, little stuff that’s going on in our districts.”

Councilwoman Delia Garza  and Councilman Sabino “Pio” Renteria spoke alongside Cesar.

Casar said reducing traffic is a necessary part of addressing affordable housing.

“We need to simultaneously be ready for massive investments in affordable housing, paired at the same time with massive investments in mass transit,” Casar said. “I think that folks understand traffic and the need for alternative transportation — not a big plan — but a plan that is supported by transit users.”

Architecture junior Frank Onuorah said he came to hear Casar, his City Council member, talk about how the new system has influenced the Council’s actions on affordability.

“I feel a little bit more obligated to be more aware of … the way big issues, like affordability, are handled by our big leaders in government,” Onuorah said. “With the three Council members here tonight, they’re super big about promoting affordable measures to make housing feasible for more Austinites than what they are currently feeling.”

According to Casar and Garza, one way the City Council is currently taking on affordable housing is by considering reducing regulations on accessory dwelling units, which are residential units located on lots larger than 7,000 square feet.

Council members will take up the units at its next meeting Thursday  when it could vote to reduce the minimum lot size requirement to smaller lots and create design standards.

“I see the argument of affordable housing, but I guess I’m concerned about some issues,” Garza said. “I don’t know where I’m landing just yet, and I’m looking forward to the conversation.”