The Austin City Council voted Wednesday to purchase a hotel at Burnet Road and U.S. 183 to turn into transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness.
The council unanimously voted to buy the Texas Bungalow Hotel & Suites at 13311 Burnet Road for $6.7 million. Its purchase is the latest in a strategy from the city to buy hotels to house the homeless.
A second hotel near U.S. 183 and the Texas 45 toll road on the northern outskirts of Austin was also set to be purchased. However, at the behest of Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, that vote was put off for a week.
Kelly has shown some resistance to the purchase of that hotel, the Candlewood Suites at 10811 Pecan Park Blvd. It lies in her district and its purchase marks a difficult vote for the new council member, who campaigned heavily on a platform that many of the city’s policies regarding homelessness were not beneficial.
“The city, in a lot of ways, has lost the trust of the community regarding the homeless situation, and we as leaders in our city deserve to provide them with transparency related to the place for the hotel and input from the community,” Kelly said. “I want to be clear here that I am in support of supportive housing for the homeless, because it’s what’s needed, and what we are doing currently for the homeless situation is not enough.”
“We have a unique opportunity here today to postpone the vote and take a fresh and friendly approach to the relationship that the city has with residents that live here, both those housed, and unhoused. We can foster positive relationships between the housed community and unhoused community,” she said.
The vote to postpone the purchase was 7-4 with Council Members Greg Casar, Vanessa Fuentes, Sabino “Pio” Renteria and Kathie Tovo against.
The purchase of the Texas Bungalow Hotel & Suites gives the city 65 more rooms to add to its stock of former hotel rooms now being used as transitional housing.
It is the third hotel the city has purchased to house those experiencing homelessness.Last year, the city bought the Rodeway Inn near Oltorf and Interstate 35, and the Country Inn & Suites near St. Johns and I-35, to convert them into transitional housing.
Though delayed until next week, the council appears poised to approve the purchase of the Candlewood Suites. The council’s agenda indicates the city would pay up to $9.5 million for the 83-room hotel.
“I just don’t think that a week delay will change the conversation that we’re already seeing bubble up from the community,” Fuentes said. “Being able to move forward and take action has been so much of the conversations we’ve shared especially on the campaign trail, and I feel this urgent need that we do not delay a single day to get us on that pathway.”