City Council to consider purchasing hotels for homeless

Penni Schewe

AUSTIN ( — Austin City Council members will potentially vote Wednesday on whether to move forward with purchasing two hotels to house people who are experiencing homelessness.

The two hotel properties in question – one located at 10811 Pecan Park Boulevard, and another at 13311 Burnet Road – could cost as much as $16.2 million to acquire, based on city estimates.

The Pecan Park property, according to a City memo, is anticipated to provide 80 units of permanent supportive housing upon completion, while the Burnet Road property is anticipated to provide another 60 units. That adds to the roughly 1,100 permanent supportive housing units currently in the city’s system. The additional properties would be the third and fourth that the city has acquired to provide housing for those experiencing homelessness.

According to city staff, the funding to purchase both properties would come out of the Housing & Planning Department’s 2018 General Obligation Bonds. City estimates place the operating costs for both properties at $3.8 million annually, although the current fiscal year impact will be reduced significantly due to the fact that the properties would likely not be ready for occupancy until later this summer.

An additional item on the Council agenda, if approved, would have the City lease the Pecan Park property prior to purchase, for use as a protective lodge, or ProLodge, for those who have tested positive with COVID-19. That lease, for a potential four months, could cost the city as much as $699,200, and would add to the five other ProLodges the city has that currently can house 300 people.

During Monday’s Council work session, District 6 council member Mackenzie Kelly asked for a delay of one week on consideration of purchasing the Pecan Park property, in order to give time for the community to provide feedback on the purchase.

According to data from ECHO and the City’s homeless strategy officer that was presented to City Council during Monday’s work session, including the 2020 Point-In-Time Count, more than 2,500 Austinites experience homelessness on any given night. More than 1,500 of those are unsheltered, or sleeping in places that are not meant for human habitation.

District 4 council member Greg Casar, in an email to constituents, says the hotel purchases will pull hundreds of people off the streets for years to come. “This is only possible because of our reallocation of funds from policing toward alternatives, like housing those experiencing homelessness,” Casar wrote. “We know over-policing doesn’t solve homelessness, but housing does.”

Wednesday’s Council meeting will begin at 10 a.m. and will be held virtually.

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