Every election, the Northfield Neighborhood Association sends a short list of questions to candidates running for District 4 and 9 and / or the Mayor. These questions are germane to the interests of residents in the Northfield Neighborhood.
This year each of the candidates for District 4 has been given an opportunity to respond to questions for the current election. Gonzalo Camacho is the first candidate to respond, but the other two candidates will likely send their responses soon.
NNA: What would you do to improve the diversity of housing stock in Central Austin, creating more opportunities for affordable housing without sacrificing the quality of life for existing residents?
CAMACHO: Perhaps the priority should be about preventing the increase of housing and living costs as well as gentrification instead of diversification of “housing stock.”
According to the City, District 4 has a median household income of about $39,200 which, for a full time job, is about $19/hour without benefits like health insurance and vacation. District 4 might be affordable since it has one of the lowest median family income but it is also prime for redevelopment and economic gentrification as we have seen in North Loop.
To maintain the cost of housing and living affordable we should pay close attention to property taxes and regulations that increase property taxes, fees and cost of doing business. Whether it is an increase in the city’s budget or a new bond, these impact the cost of living in Austin affecting housing affordability and to lower income families the most.
Affordability of housing is also related to the cost of transportation. Generally, for a median family income 25% of their income is for housing and 24% for transportation, both cost of housing and transportation go hand in hand.
In terms of transportation we need to encourage a diverse, efficient, safer, and multi modal transportation system including: walking, bicycling, peer-to-peer (Uber & Lyft), public transit, private cars, etc.
In terms of quality of life, although “quality of life” is subjective, it is critical to preserve and expand green spaces, linear parks, pocket parks, neighborhood parks, or even regional parks. There are many other aspects that are included in quality of life such as: health, safety, and family economics. I would like to add to quality of life having kinder and friendlier communities in District 4.
NNA: What is your view of the changing demographics of Central Austin?
CAMACHO: City government should prioritize the preservation of the quality of life of residents and economic vitality of families including local businesses. District 4 is unique in its demographics because it has a large Hispanic population and a diverse ethnic community. As an immigrant I love diversity of cultures and love to celebrate those differences. It is great to come from outside and be welcome into a neighborhood while being able to plan for future retirement or growing a family.
However, as a small business owner (traffic and transportation engineering) and home owner, the increase of property taxes is pricing me out from retiring in my North Loop house. In other words, costs of living in District 4 are increasing making it difficult for home owners to afford property taxes. I believe affordability is impacting many District 4 residents in particular: families, fixed income, retirees, and low income families.
NNA: What could be done to improve mobility in Austin?
CAMACHO: Transportation is a big expense for families, about 24% of the median income family is spent in transportation; therefore, transportation or mobility is critical to quality of life and affordability.
The City of Austin should revisit the fundamentals of transportation. Maintenance and operation of roadways efficiently and in a safe manner is a building block for a good transportation system. It includes maintenance and operation of: roadway pavement, traffic signals, sidewalks, ADA access, bicycle infrastructure, etc. These are the foundation for the future of transportation/mobility.
The City of Austin should be proactive about solving concerns such as hot spots (crash prone areas) and proving the basic infrastructure that all modes of transportation require for people to access the city in a safe, efficient and affordable manner.
Capital Metro should provide free transit service to Austin residents in particular to AISD students and retirees.
With the advent of technology and other innovative approaches to mobility, government agencies should to be open to having healthy conversations and partnerships with the private sector.
4. What do you think are the 3 most important quality-of-life issues that need to be addressed?
- Health & Safety – Are our neighborhoods safe in terms of health of people, healthy environment, and personal safety?
- Cost of living – Are our neighborhoods allowing us to maintain a standard of living without having to compromise our standard of living and quality of life now and in the future? Can we retire living in our current homes or will we be forced to sell our family homes for retirement?
- Accessibility – Are our neighborhoods provided with the infrastructure and transportation system that allow us to access the area and region in a safe, efficient and affordable manner?