Mayor Adler Calls on Philanthropists to Aid in Affordability

Mayor Steve Adler recently met with thirty local philanthropists and charitable foundations to discuss the role philanthropy can play in supporting his initiatives.  As the fastest growing city in the country (according to Forbes) with the second-fastest growing suburban poverty rate in the country (Brookings Institution), our city's public initiatives must leverage philanthropic resources to make the game-changing progress that's needed.  

The mayor outlined his two major priorities—making Austin a more affordable place to live and economic development to increase opportunities for all.

Housing, transportation and childcare comprise the largest expenses for most Austin families. Top on the affordability list is preserving about 40,000 affordable rental housing units currently located on transportation corridors. Over the next ten years if these privately-owned Class C or D apartments are not preserved, about 200,000 people will be displaced—forever.

“Government doesn’t have the knowledge or power to do this alone,” the mayor said. “It will cost $4.5 billion to buy all these housing units.” The City has twice issued housing bonds ($50-80 million in each allocation) which created or preserved thousands of affordable housing units. “But that’s like spitting in a fire,” Adler added. “So, I am working with local affordable housing groups to create an affordable housing trust fund. Our community needs to invest in itself,” Adler said.

The mayor has already harnessed the power of philanthropy to help end veteran homelessness by engaging community leaders to raise $400,000. Last summer, Adler convened the real estate community and housing nonprofits and created Mayor Adler’s Housing Heroes Fund at the Austin Community Foundation to collect donations that provide for security deposits, temporary rental assistance and repairs or improvements to ensure veterans’ success. The system works. When a homeless veteran is identified, the individual is housed within 90 days or less.

“As mayor I have basically two powers,” the mayor told the group of funders. “I can convene a meeting and people come, and I can speak out about community priorities.” He invited philanthropists and charitable foundations to consider these as their tools.

"Great cities do big things, not because they are great," Mayor Adler announced earlier this year in his “State of the City” address. "Cities become great because they do big things." The mayor’s remarks to Austin Area Funders, a program of the Foundation, was presented in partnership with the Still Water Foundation. 

Learn more about Mayor Adler's initiatives