BG Reads + BG Podcast | News You Need to Know (February 20, 2019)




(Run time - 17:10)

“Various forms of denser housing, in appropriate locations, has to be the main source of housing for our future.” - Terry Mitchell

On today’s episode we speak with Terry Mitchell, President of Momark Development LLC. Terry is a well established leader in Austin’s homebuilding community, having a hand in the development of iconic properties such as downtown’s Austonian, to the recent The Tyndall luxury condominiums on the east side. He is equally as known for his passion and expertise around affordable housing issues.

Terry and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the developer’s approach to building, as well as the state of Austin’s affordable housing crisis and what can be done about it.

This episode was recorded on January 29, 2019.

Link to Episode 35


Latest nominee rekindles debate about Planning Commission’s makeup (Austin American-Statesman)

Six months after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit over the makeup of the Austin Planning Commission, its membership likely continues to violate a city charter rule that declares no more than one-third of commissioners may be connected to the real estate business.

That’s unlikely to change anytime soon with the revelation Tuesday that recently elected City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison’s nominee to the board also could be considered to have professional real estate connections.

Harper-Madison, who represents District 1 in East Austin, has nominated Patrick Howard, the head of the Travis County Housing Authority. The council has taken no action on the nomination, and, on Tuesday, Mayor Steve Adler asked staffers to place a discussion about Planning Commission membership on the agenda for the closed door portion of Thursday’s City Council meeting.

Paxton sued the city in July, calling for as many as eight Planning Commission members to be tossed from the influential land-use board after critics told the attorney general’s office that the commission’s makeup possibly violated the city charter.

Today, as many as six members of the commission could be considered “directly or indirectly” connected with professional real estate, two more than what is allowed for the 13-person commission under the charter. Adding Howard could further tilt the board in that regard.

Adler noted that in suing the city of Austin, Paxton considered Planning Commissioner Greg Anderson, the head of Austin Habitat for Humanity, to be connected to the real estate business.

“With Patrick Howard, that would potentially give us seven people if whoever it was who filed the lawsuit would consider him in the same boat as Greg Anderson,” Adler said.

Harper-Madison pushed back on the assertion.

“There are no black members on Planning Commission,” Harper-Madison said. “While I understand that we are generally risk-averse, I want (the council) to understand that we need to have very accurate, thorough and equitable representation.”

The Planning Commission is one of two city land-use boards that make recommendations on rezoning and other land-use cases. The Planning Commission generally hears cases involving the central city and makes recommendations to the City Council on changes to the zoning code.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Howard told the American-Statesman that he was unsure whether his connections to the real estate industry would be considered direct or indirect…

Link to story

See also:

BG Podcast Episode 29: Natasha Harper-Madison- Austin City Council District 1

BG Podcast Episode 15: Patrick Howard, Executive Director and CEO at Housing Authority of Travis County

BG Podcast Episode 1: Natasha Harper-Madison, East 12th Street Merchants Association President

Casar makes small changes to affordable housing resolution (Austin Monitor)

City Council appears poised to approve a resolution aimed at easing regulations on affordable housing developers.

At a Tuesday work session, Council members offered suggestions, but not significant criticism, of the measure drafted by Council Member Greg Casar. The proposal, which Casar has dubbed “Affordability Unlocked,” would exempt subsidized housing projects from numerous development regulations, including parking requirements, compatibility and setback standards, design standards and limits on floor area ratio.

Casar clarified that he had erred in an earlier version of the resolution, which stated that affordable developments with fewer than 12 units would not have to submit site plans. The new version says that such developments would go through a “modified” site plan process, similar to the less-intense process currently in place for single-family home projects.

In a post on the City Council Message Board last week, Council Member Leslie Pool suggested a number of changes and asked for clarifications about how the proposed new rules would be applied in different situations. She wondered, for instance, how the program would relate to mixed-use developments. Would developments that are made up largely of commercial space be eligible for waivers if they include a few affordable residential units?

In response, Casar said that he had revised the resolution to specify that eligible developments could have no more than 25 percent of their space as non-residential. That would likely restrict commercial space to the ground floor. Casar noted that existing affordable housing complexes include some non-residential space, such as a computer lab, gym or recreation area on the ground floor…

Link to story

State hospital plan draws heat from urbanists (Austin Business Journal)

A neighborhood association is criticizing efforts to redesign Austin State Hospital as failing to incorporate a "walkable urban design" on a prime piece of real estate.

Friends of Hyde Park leadership called the current master plan for the state-run mental hospital "inadequate" in a Feb. 11 statement.

"The overall campus design appears to be designed for a suburban location or similar to campus designs common 30 years ago with low rise buildings, inefficient surface parking and little to no usable amenities outside of the single use of healthcare services," the group wrote in the statement. Friends of Hyde Park said those services could be preserved while also including walkable amenities and housing, whether it's affordable housing, housing for the homeless or just additional housing.

Friends of Hyde Park Board Chairman Pete Gilcrease, an urbanist, said the property at West 41st and Guadalupe streets is important to Hyde Park, particularly for its connection to other areas such as Rosedale…

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After state leaders’ unified rollout, 2.5 percent rollback rate on property tax bill looks unlikely to stick (Texas Tribune)

Three weeks ago, Gov. Greg Abbott convened state leaders to announce an achievement he hailed as “unprecedented”: The governor, lieutenant governor, House speaker and Republican tax committee chiefs in both chambers had come together on a proposal to curb property tax growth. Identical bills filed in the Texas House and Senate would trigger automatic local elections when a local government’s property tax revenue grew more than 2.5 percent in a given year.

The consensus proposal marked a drastic departure from the current rollback rate of 8 percent and even from the numbers the two chambers backed last session. In the wake of a House pitch for 6 percent and a Senate pitch for 4 percent, the governor proposed a compromise at 2.5 percent — a show of “real leadership,” joked Sen. Paul Bettencourt, the Houston Republican who chairs the Senate’s property tax committee.

Less than a month later, that 2.5 figure seems to face steep odds — if it’s still on the table at all. Several of the leaders who flanked the governor at that press conference weeks ago have backed off from the proposal, casting the 2.5-percent figure as more of a starting point than a consensus. And a key GOP vote in the Senate, Amarillo Republican Kel Seliger, has announced his opposition to the legislation, calling into question whether leadership will have enough support to bring the bill to the floor for a vote…

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Texas community colleges warn they may consider tuition hikes in the face of property tax reform (Texas Tribune)

The community colleges that educate about half the state’s higher education students are warning of possible tuition hikes if the Texas Legislature enacts its sweeping property tax proposal.

The high-priority legislation would slow the growth of property tax revenue, which makes up an average 40 percent of community colleges’ funding, according to an association that represents them. The share for state appropriations for the schools, meanwhile, has plummeted from 66 percent in the 1980s to near 23 percent today.

“Community colleges are alarmed,” said Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of San Jacinto College. While she understands the need for property tax reform, she said, “The concern is you've got two revenue sources — your state revenue source is pretty much capped. And now, if you put a very tight cap on your property taxes, what can you do other than increase tuition and fees or cut your services?”…

Link to story

Local Brewers Could Sell Direct To Consumers With Bipartisan 'Beer-To-Go' Bill (KUT)

Texans would be able to take home beer directly from local breweries if a bipartisan bill before the Texas Legislature becomes law. 

Small brewers have been fighting large beer distributors for years over how to get beer into consumers’ homes. Republican state Sen. Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway says the legislation, which has the support of both groups, would make things fair. 

“You know, it just didn’t make any sense that you could go to your favorite winery and bring home a bottle of wine,” she said. "You could go to your favorite distillery and bring home whatever distilled spirit that was. But you couldn’t go to your brewery and bring home some beer.” …

Link to story


16 States Sue Over Trump's National Emergency Declaration (KUT)

A group of 16 states has filed a lawsuit in a Northern California federal court against President Trump's declaration of a national emergency, calling the president's decision to use executive power to fund a border wall unconstitutional.

The complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeks to bar the administration from using emergency powers to divert money from other programs to a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, marking the start of a legal battle anticipated by both the president and his opponents.

"The President has used the pretext of a manufactured 'crisis' of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency," the plaintiffs wrote in California et al. v. Trump et al. The lawsuit, spearheaded by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, says that the Constitution gives Congress alone the power to control spending, not the president…

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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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