Austin, Texas will now begin Experimenting with "Guaranteed Income"
The city will be the first in Texas to use the measure to combat those struggling with rent, mortgage, and homelessness...
Texas will not experiment with giving cash to low-income families to aid in housing as the cost of living skyrockets in Austin. The city will send a monthly check of $1,000 to 85 households at risk of losing their homes in an attempt to insulate low-income residents from the expensive housing market.
“We can find people moments before they end up on our streets that prevent them, divert them from being there. That would be not only wonderful for them, but it would also be wise and smart for the taxpayers in the city of Austin because it will be a lot less expensive to divert someone from homelessness than to help them find a home once they’re on our streets.”
Mayor Steve Adler said at a press conference.
There is a contract with a California nonprofit to run the program which was established yesterday as eight council members voted on it. Austin now joins a club of nearly 28 U.S. cities that have tried some form of guaranteed income. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg have also shown support for the idea even as their cities are not in the same situation as Austin.
It is still in the works to find just exactly how the program will work and which families will receive the money. Those who qualify won’t have restrictions as to how they spend the money, but the hope is they will use it for rent, utilities, transportation, and groceries. Officials have floated the idea that residents with existing eviction cases filed against them or those struggling to pay their utilities should qualify for the check.
There have been concerns about the program as it still has an abundant amount of lacking details. Another concern is if local taxpayers will fund the program.
“I believe that we do need to invest in people and their basic needs, but I’m not sure that this is the right way today.”
Alison Alter, a council member who voted against the program, said.
The city’s chief equity officer, Brion Oaks, said that the Urban Institute will help to measure the program’s impact by looking at factors like financial stability, stress levels, and overall wellness over the course of receiving the funds. Urban Institue is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
A similar pilot program has shown some promising results. As mentioned, the California nonprofit, UpTogether, will run the program. They also ran a separate program funded by private capital in Austin and Georgetown that ended in March. The results showed that the program gave $1,000 a month to families for a year and it was reported that participants used the money specifically for expenses like rent, mortgage payments, child care, fuel, and groceries. Another positive was that some were even able to boost their savings and nearly half of the participants slashed debt by 75%.
There are more than 3,100 people experiencing homelessness in Austin according to Austin’s Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. The once available ban on evictions held those numbers low but the number has skyrocketed since the ban ended. The plan for guaranteed income is a way to combat the issues Austin and other cities are facing.
“This is about preventing displacement, preventing eviction, and ensuring that our families are able to stay in their home, that we have that stability.”
Vanessa Fuentes, a council member, concluded.