Notes & Noticias: Let’s Continue the Affordability Conversation


Continuing our Conversation on Affordability in Austin


Today, I am in Dallas to kick off the House Farm-to-Table Caucus’ first dinner and listening session. I, along with other members, will hear from those in the DFW area about the local food issues that matter most to them. It will be interesting to see any parallels with the opportunities and challenges we face here in Austin.

In last week’s Notes & Noticias, I talked about the need to seriously address the affordability and property tax challenges facing our community. I went into length about my work on this matter going back to before I ever took an oath of office. I do not like being redundant, but so many of you responded to last week’s edition of Notes and Noticias that I’m going to continue this important conversation.

It was refreshing to read Senator Watson’s Watson Wire in which he outlined new bill ideas and some past bills that we worked on together. As the Statesman pointed out, many homeowners across Austin are now realizing what many of my neighbors in East Austin already began experiencing over a decade ago. Austin is becoming less and less affordable and the Texas Legislature has only made the situation worse. Homeowners currently foot the bill for over half the State’s budget for public education and large corporations have contributed less and less. The appraisal repeal system is not working, and homestead exemptions could be made progressive to benefit homeowners who are struggling the most.

Here are some ideas of bills I am considering filing next session to address this affordability crisis. Let me know how you feel about them here:

  • Eliminate or reduce Chapter 313 tax abatements which are used to lure large employers to Texas by temporarily lowering their property taxes.
  • Allow Texas voters to decide whether to allow taxing entities the flexibility to express homestead exemptions as a rate or a percentage. Currently, they must choose a tax rate but allowing for a flat number would alleviate property taxes for owners of low and moderate valued homes.
  • Require sales price disclosure on commercial real estate transactions to allow appraisers to more easily determine fair market value.
  • Require property owner to pay costs associated with an unsuccessful appraisal protest.
  • Add safeguards to ensure that large corporations and commercial real estate owners are not receiving overly generous settlements from taxing entities in appraisal protests.

Congrats to Texas School for the Deaf’s Class of 2014

It is always rewarding to meet some of the House District 51’s bright stars. Last week, three of my young constituents graduated from the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD). I visited the campus to present congratulatory certificates and meet them.

Kamilla Jenna Ford looks forward to attending ACC for two years before transferring to California State University at Northridge to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice. After college, she hopes to live in California and travel the world, especially to underdeveloped regions.

Clarence Ross Price has been very active with the TSD community, where he was a member of the drama club and the Dorm Council committee. Recently, he discovered a passion in animation and digital media in recent years and is planning on attending ACC to study film production and to enhance his photography skills.

Alexander Duarte has been attending TSD since pre-K, and will be continuing with their Adult Curriculum for Community, Employment and Social Skills program in the fall. This initiative will allow him to receive a blend of classroom instruction and community-based learning to gain the essential skills to support his interests and passions.

Congrats again to these Austinites and to all the TSD graduates. I am very confident that the world will be in good hands with this up-and-coming generation.