BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 18, 2019)



Central Texas housing market sets records in June (Austin American-Statesman)

Central Texas saw strong gains in home sales in the first six months of the year, a sign 2019 should be another robust year for the region’s housing market, the Austin Board of Realtors said Wednesday.

“In the first half of the year, monthly home sales in the Austin-Round Rock MSA consistently outperformed previous years. We are on track for another very strong year,” Kevin Scanlan, the board’s president, said in an email.

Across the five-county Austin-Round Rock metro area, sales of single-family homes and the median sales price last month reached the highest level for any June on record, the board said.

Within Austin’s city limits, the median home-sales price was the highest it has ever been for any month on record, climbing to $420,000. That’s up from a median of $407,400 in May, according to board figures… (LINK TO STORY)

City moving toward greater scrutiny, and possible rent hikes, on nonprofit leases (Austin Monitor)

Nonprofit organizations operating on city properties will likely be expected to put a dollar value on the services they provide to the community, and could face higher rents after years of lease agreements at far below market rate.

In May, the Office of the City Auditor found that the city’s leasing practices in general lacked oversight and the needed structure to ensure compliance, with leases given to nonprofit groups called out as an area needing greater scrutiny.

Currently the city has agreements with 18 nonprofit groups that operate on city property. Twelve of those groups either have no lease fee or pay the city $1 per year as an acknowledgement of the services and cultural value they provide to the community. Those groups are: Zach Scott Theatre; Capitol City Trap and Skeet Club; Blackland Community Development Corp.; Austin Free-Net; Austin Yellow Bike Project; Minorities for Equality in Employment, Education, Liberty and Justice; Planned Parenthood; Junior Achievement of Central Texas; TreeFolks; Austin Youth River Watch; Austin/Travis County Integral Care and Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce… (LINK TO STORY)

Five-star hotel still planned for downtown Austin Brick Oven site — but new developer attached (Austin Business Journal)

A five-star hotel is still in the works for a site in north downtown Austin adjacent to Waterloo Park and near Dell Seton Medical Center.

The site is currently home to a Brick Oven restaurant, at the corner of 12th and Red River streets. Alan Nalle, the owner of the property, is seeking a one-year extension of an already-approved site plan for a 33-story, five-star hotel, according to documents filed May 29 with the city of Austin Development Services Department. Construction delays caused the previous developer, Empyrean Development LLC, to back out of the deal, according to those documents.

The current site plan is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2020… (LINK TO STORY)

Travis County commissioners approve contract with UT researchers to study HUB program (Community Impact)

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to approve an agreement with The University of Texas at Austin meant to enhance minority participation in the county’s contracting program at a July 16 meeting.

The Commissioners Court is overseeing an ongoing effort to reform and improve the county’s Historically Underutilized Business program.

In November 2018, commissioners were presented with the results of a disparity study conducted for the HUB program.

It found the county spent around 12% of its total contract expenditures to hire minority- and women-owned businesses in fiscal year 2017-18. That rate has remained relatively flat for the last few years… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas' biggest cities scramble to figure out what the 2019 legislative session will cost them (Texas Tribune)

During this year’s legislative session, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was among scores of city leaders who actively opposed yet another series of attempts by state officials to limit how much money local governments collect. But with lawmakers determined to reform the local property tax process, she and other mayors had little luck fighting off what many city officials considered attacks on local control.

By the time the Legislature adjourned in May, lawmakers had passed bills that limit how much property tax revenues local governments can collect without voter approval, prohibit the use of revenue-generating red-light cameras and eliminate some fees telecommunications companies pay to local entities.

“We have actually worked on this for the last three or four sessions, but it really feels like it escalated this session,” Price told The Texas Tribune. “They don’t have a full grasp of cities, our spending and what we do.”… (LINK TO STORY)

FCC funds rural internet access in 89 Texas counties (Houston Chronicle)

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday approved nearly $77 million in funding for improving rural internet access in 89 Texas counties. The money will go to connecting businesses and residences that are unserved by existing internet access.

The vast majority of the money for Texas, won in an auction to conduct the buildout, will go to one company, and in some counties will create as few as three new connections. The funding is part of the commission’s Connect America initiative, which aims to provide resources for broadband internet access to rural areas that lack high-speed connections. Because it can be costly to build infrastructure to low-density rural areas, many rural residents and businesses lack the service enjoyed in more urban settings… (LINK TO STORY)

GOP incumbents outraise challengers in key Texas congressional districts targeted by Democrats (Austin American-Statesman)

In four of the six GOP-held congressional districts in Texas that national Democrats are aggressively targeting, Republican incumbents have outraised their Democratic challengers, a sign that Republicans recognize the danger of an increasingly energized Democratic Party looking to flip their seats in 2020. On the other side of the political tug of war, Democratic incumbents continue to outraise their Republican challengers in the two districts Democrats seized from Republicans in 2018.

Three of the six Republican-held districts being eyed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are in Central Texas — the 10th, represented by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin; the 21st, represented by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin; and the 31st, represented by U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock — and, in each, Republicans hauled in far more money than their Democratic challengers during the second quarter. Campaign finance reports were filed by midnight Monday… (LINK TO STORY)


Foreign homebuyers are retreating from U.S. and Texas (Dallas Morning News)

Increasing global political, economic and trade tensions are driving down the number of foreign real estate purchases. Purchases of U.S. homes by foreign buyers have dropped by more than a third in the last year.

And home purchases by Chinese buyers plunged by 56% from 2018 levels, according to a new survey by the National Association of Realtors. "The magnitude of the decline is quite striking, implying less confidence in owning a property in the U.S," Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, said in the new report. The real estate trade group looked at purchases of properties across the country by offshore buyers and recent immigrants for its annual survey of foreign home investment in the U.S… (LINK TO STORY)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

Episode 28: Rodney Gonzales- Director of Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD)

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Rodney Gonzales, then Director of Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD). The department was created in 2015 to handle residential and commercial permitting issues separately from zoning issues.

Rodney discusses his background and path to DSD, and current department initiatives with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham. . (LINK TO SHOW)



As reported previously here, the City of Austin is exploring potential requirements that would mandate that 

  1. New developments submit water balance applications;

  2. Developments over 250,000 square feet use alternative and onsite waters to meet indoor and outdoor non-potable water demands. 

The timeline is particularly quick as City staff is working to develop proposed ordinance language by this fall… (LINK TO BLOG)

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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