By Chad Switecki
Resistance appears to be growing to a slate of resolutions on the agenda for Thursday’s City Council meeting that would lead to the permanent relocation of the Downtown Austin Community Court to a circa-1800s municipal building on West Eighth Street.
The resolutions would follow action taken in February on the proposed move, allocating $27 million to renovate the three-story building and selecting the design-build method as the framework to begin seeking bids for the work.
One of the loudest voices against the move to the West Eighth location has been the Downtown Austin Alliance. In recent weeks, the organization has proposed using mobile courthouses to house the court, which has temporarily operated out of One Texas Center since losing its longtime lease on East Sixth Street due to redevelopment plans for the site.
The community court was created in 1999 to address class C misdemeanor offenses not requiring imprisonment, while also providing case management and housing-focused services for those experiencing homelessness. The nature of the court’s clientele makes a downtown location key, and the passage of Proposition B in 2021, which reinstated many penalties related to homelessness, has made the court’s role more critical than ever.
In a recent post for Austin Towers, Bill Brice, a DAA vice president, wrote that residents and businesses that oppose the relocation to West Eighth Street argue “the location is neither appropriate to address the complex and profound needs of the court’s target population nor proximal to treatment and service providers that serve the court’s clients,” while also calling into question the cost to renovate the structure.
The prospect of roughly three dozen daily visits by homeless or distressed clients in the area adjacent to prominent businesses and high-dollar residential projects such as the Brown Building Lofts has drawn resistance from residents. Some of that criticism also comes because of the city’s decision in May 2020 to designate the entire West Eighth site as being eventually converted to use for creative and nonprofit space.
Under the plans recently put forward by the city, the court would use the first floor and part of the second, leaving roughly one-and-a-half floors for creative use.
“One of the main goals of the Downtown Austin Community Court is to serve people experiencing homelessness. We believe we would be able to do this productively at the Municipal Building – once it’s renovated – based on its centralized location, space to provide services effectively, access to public transit, and parking for staff and public,” said a city spokesperson in an email to the Austin Monitor. “Under this proposal the entire third floor and a portion of the second floor could be made available for cultural or non‐profit uses and we are currently collaborating with the Austin Economic Development Corporation on opportunities.”
In an email outlining reasons why the city should pause and reconsider other sites for the relocation – including Waller Creek Center – Brown Building resident Hanan Levy said the move could lead to the deterioration of part of the core of downtown Austin.
“We realize no location is going to be ideal, but this is running the risk of making the Congress Avenue Historic District into the Austin Tenderloin and to suffer the same fate as such areas in other cities like San Francisco, Seattle, etc. – sending us years back, and throwing millions away,” he wrote.
Levy and others critical of the move have said the city didn’t allow for enough community input and didn’t share all information about the evaluation process that led to the selection of the former city hall building. As part of the documentation for Thursday’s meeting, the city released a summary of the questions, with answers, submitted for a Jan. 25 online forum on the move held by Council Member Kathie Tovo, whose district includes most of downtown Austin.
August Harris, chair of the Downtown Commission, said the group hasn’t made a recommendation on the court’s relocation because city staffers haven’t made presentations that would allow for an agenda item with action. Harris said the Downtown Commission frequently has difficulty getting responses from city departments for requests for information, with the court situation being the latest example.
“We have yet to have a follow-up briefing on it, which is disappointing. I know there are a lot of folks that are unhappy about it and I don’t know that this is the best location or use for that building. Things happen downtown that we should be involved in beforehand, but (staffers) don’t come to us … and that is maddening. It’s going to cost a substantial amount and I don’t know if that is spending good money.”
The Austin Monitor is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization with a mission to strengthen our shared information space and democracy.
So you want to buy a house?
To anyone trying to get on the "housing ladder," it's been a discouraging couple of years as prices skyrocketed in a market crowded with buyers bidding against each other for just about any available home.
Things may be calming down, with the Austin Board of REALTORS reporting fewer sales and more available homes this summer.
Mortgage rates have more than doubled in the last year, from around 3% to well over 6% on a 30-year fixed rate loan, getting even more of a bump this week after the Federal Reserve raised bank rates on Wednesday.
So how affordable are homes right now? That, of course, depends on what you want and how much you're able or willing to pay, but here are some rough estimates of what a typical buyer would pay to buy a $650,000 home, which would be considered "mid-price" in today's market.
Mortgage banker Chris Holland (NMLS 211033) of Austin's Sente Mortgage ran some numbers for Austonia to illustrate a typical purchase.
Holland says that while the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is often mentioned in the media, the most popular loan that he's seeing now is a 7/1 adjustable rate mortgage, which has a fixed rate for 7 years and then adjusts every year based on market rates, with a limit on how much it can increase each year. The interest is amortized over a 30-year period. Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) offer lower rates than fixed rate loans.
Here are the numbers, which are examples. In practice, exact numbers vary with a buyer's credit rating and overall financial situation, and with the rate, which can move up or down at any time.
- $650,000 home purchase price
- 7/1 ARM at 5.875%
- 5% down payment, equals $32,500
- 95% financed, equals $617,500
- $4,990 payment, including principle and interest (P&I), insurance, and property tax
- Typically, a borrower's debt to income ratio needs to be at or below 45%. So for this mortgage, a borrower, or borrowers, would need income of roughly $11,100/month, or $133,200/year. That number could be higher, depending on the buyer's outstanding credit balances on things like credit cards and car loans.
Holland says he's had a lot of clients approved for loans who were house hunting but have put that on hold, hoping prices come down.
Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
Fall promises to be a one-of-a-kind camping experience. From Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, weekends will be packed with fall-themed activities, including special Halloween weekends in October. Campers can enjoy activities like fall crafts, campground trick-or-treating, costume contests, site decorating, outdoor movie nights, and more!
Packages and Ways to Stay
Camp Fimfo Waco
Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
Stay in style and comfort, no matter your camping preference! At Camp Fimfo Waco, there are multiple ways to stay. Red Carpet RV sites come with a concrete pad and patio, full hook-ups, cable hook-up, a charcoal grill, fire ring and fire pit. Back-in or pull-thru options are available, as well as coveted spots tucked along the Bosque River!
Don’t have an RV? Not a problem, Camp Fimfo Waco has cabins too! Book a Riverview Firewheel Cabin if you’re looking for an air-conditioned oasis for the whole family. Complete with a kitchen and private bathroom, this cabin can fit up to 10 people. Elevate your stay by adding on a golf cart or snag a private cabana by the pool for guaranteed shade. With wifi available throughout the park, you can stay connected during your stay!
Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
Camp Fimfo Waco features lots of amenities to fill your days with fun, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. After challenging your friends to a game of pickleball, basketball, or mini golf, go for a dip in the resort-style, heated pool - open daily through October! Stay on the weekends through October to enjoy the interactive splash playground. With plenty of ways to burn off energy, like the jumping pillow or playground, you can be sure to end the day with a peaceful night around the campfire!
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