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Affordable housing bond may be on November ballot

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Just a year after voters turned down an affordable housing bond, city leaders may put another one on the ballot in November.

Supporters of affordable housing know they'll have to do a better job of educating voters this time around, but will that be enough to get the job done?

The last Affordable Housing Bond that passed was in 2006 and City Council members say that money is just about gone. 

As the cost of living in Austin continues to rise, so does the number of residents needing an affordable place to live.

Aurora Tijerina and her 14-year-old daughter, Alix, just got the keys to their brand new home in East Austin. "It's beautiful," said Tijerina. "It's two-bedroom and it's solar energy."

After her husband died a few years ago, the rental home Tijerina was living in was sold. "All the rents went up in East Austin which made it very difficult to afford housing," she told FOX 7.

So, she and Alix moved to Seguin where they had a place to live and she commuted more than an hour each way to work as a house keeper in Austin.

"I was driving every day, trying to work and leave my daughter from 7 in the morning to 7:30 at night and it was a very long drive."

After being on an affordable housing wait list for five years, they finally got their new home at a cost of less than $550 a month. The average rent in Austin is nearly $1,000 a month.

Last November, voters turned down a $78-million affordable housing bond, but city council members say that doesn't mean the need for affordable housing has gone away. They're considering asking voters for up to $65 million for another bond in November.

"What we intend to do differently is have ballot language that is clearer and make the case to the public that this housing is not 1970s housing, but it is nice and you probably have it in your neighborhood right now and don't even know it," said Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.

The question is if voters will agree to fund it. Don Zimmerman with the Travis County Taxpayers Union knows that housing prices in Austin have climbed, but doesn't believe the city should ask taxpayers for more money after they just said 'no' to it last year. "It's a popular place to live so you can't fault the city for that and that drives up costs, but what the city could do is they could reduce taxes and lower regulation, but they're doing the opposite."

While Aurora and Alix are finally in their home, they know there are many other families still waiting.

"We are the people it effects and we love Austin and we appreciate being able to live in our homes here."

Thursday, City leaders will vote on a resolution to ask the City Manager to put an item on the agenda in August that if passes, would put the affordable housing bond on the November 2013 ballot.

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