Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

New tourist district should protect locals

Sharon Chang

The City of Austin proposed the Austin Tourism Public Improvement District (ATPID) in October 2020. The ATPID promotes commerce in Austin, with a focus on increasing the demand for hotel activity. Austin hotels are currently reviewing the plan, which will likely be heard and approved by the City Council later this Fall.

The legislation aims to benefit Austin’s economy and foster progress for all Austin residents. However, the absence of worker regulations and a clear outline of where the city will spend its increased tax revenues could negatively affect the UT community.

Austin is no stranger to welcoming big businesses to grow the municipal economy. Prominent corporations such as Apple, Amazon, Google, JPMorgan Chase and Tesla, all of which are Fortune 500 Companies, have relocated headquarters or expanded their operations in the Austin metropolitan area within the past few years. 

However, with this rapid growth and influx of new workers within the city, Austin’s current housing prices are 36% higher than they were in June 2017 prior to when these previously listed corporations majorly expanded into Austin, according to a 2023 Forbes article

The increased commerce within Austin, resulting in higher costs of living, stems from the lack of policy that protected locals from the saturated job market.

The ATPID aims to encourage tourism by allowing large hotels and the city to agree on a hotel occupancy tax based on the amount of people that stay the night which the hotel will then give a certain amount of money back to the city.  

“These funds generated will help further spur hotel night stays and other economic activity associated with tourism,” said Ryan Alter, District 5 City Council Member. “(This activity will result in) a benefit both to the private sector and to the city through increased tourism.”

However, the increased commerce in Austin could create a higher cost of living without preventative policy. To protect Austinites, the city council should create legislation that protects locals from the saturated job market and creates tax programs that maximize tax revenue for city members. Otherwise, Austin could run the risk of assimilating itself into cities such as New York, which has lost much of its population share of locals to tourists. While the comparison is not exact due to Austin’s comparatively smaller size, the same principle still applies. 

The city should add these policies into the new ATPID, which could help mitigate issues like the cost of goods and services, the rising price of housing and homelessness. 

Professor Steven Pedigo, Director of the LBJ Urban Lab, emphasized the importance of combining differing viewpoints into smart policy that benefits both the economy and local residents.

“(Austin should be) more innovative in thinking about how we look to take advantage of a fast growing economy and doing something that can be transformational for people’s lives,” Pedigo said.

This policy directly impacts members of the UT community as college students cannot aptly keep up with major economic changes. To reform ATPID, UT students should contact city council members to preserve their current cost of living and convey the growing distress surrounding affordable student living in Austin. 

Continuing down the path of economic growth without proper regulations will come at the cost of the socioeconomic diversity of our campus. Fewer students of underprivileged backgrounds will have the means to live and study at UT. 

As the state’s public flagship college, the University and its students should encourage diversity and equity for students of all backgrounds. Without policy accommodations, the value of access to education that public schools exhibit will be undermined. 

While ATPID looks to encourage tourism in Austin, it must do so in a sustainable way. By giving back to UT’s general student body and other Austin residents, this policy can benefit all Austinities. 

Lam is a government sophomore from Round Rock, Texas.

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