Austin City Council approves purchase of hotel for homeless housing

Austin City Council approves the purchase of a hotel for homeless shelters

City council members approved the purchase of a hotel in District 7 but decided to postpone the vote on the second hotel in District 6.

The city of Austin has decided to move ahead with the purchase of a hotel in North Austin to serve as shelter for the homeless.

Austin City Council approved item 32 on the agenda Wednesday afternoon and approved the purchase of the Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites at 13311 Burnet Road.

Built in 2018, the 65-room hotel is expected to cost the city $ 6,750,000. According to a memo from the Office of Real Estate Services and the city’s Homeless Strategy Officer, the building is expected to have around 60 permanent supportive housing units after some of the spaces have been remodeled to add the office space and common areas needed.

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“In addition to being homes for people, these hotels will provide services such as job assistance, health care, mental health resources and more,” said Councilor Greg Casar, District 4.

Prior to approval, city council members heard from over 60 parishioners during a virtual public comment phase.

“Advice, it’s in your hands … to make sure Austin doesn’t remain the city where a lifelong Austin resident has to live in a tent next to a technology transplant in a luxury apartment,” said Laura Jorgensen, a District 7 resident where the Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites is located.

Grace Hansen said she used to live near a temporary shelter and had no issues during her interactions with residents. “Studies show that there is no data to support claims that shelters are causing an increase in crime in the area,” she said.

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Councilor Kelly says she plans to postpone this vote so she can get feedback from those who live near the northwest site before making a decision.

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While a large majority were in favor of the purchases, a handful were against or skeptical.

“People don’t want temporary solutions, they don’t want shelter, they want permanent shelter,” said a caller who wanted to remain anonymous but was homeless himself. “There are 20,000 homeless in Austin – housing 150 people is a pavement.”

Others did not think buying the hotels was the be-all and end-all of the problem, but they saw it as a necessary step forward. “Please don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Maggie Brookshire, a District 5 resident.

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After approving the purchase of Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites, councilors voted to postpone a decision on item 31 that would approve the purchase of Candlewood Suites on Pecan Park Blvd.

That decision came after Councilor Mackenzie Kelly, District 6, postponed the decision to give her more time to hear from residents and business owners in the area. The Candlewood Suites being considered are in their district.

The community is responding to the council’s plan to buy hotels for the homeless

People in the area say they have no idea this is a work in progress.

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“We have a unique opportunity here today to postpone the vote and to reconsider the relationship the city has with the people who live here – both housed and unwell,” said Kelly.

Built in 2018, the 83-room hotel is expected to cost the city $ 9,500,000. The memo states that the property is expected to have around 80 units of permanent supportive housing units, although some guest rooms may be converted into additional common or office space.

The city council members will now vote on this purchase agreement at their meeting on February 4th.

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