Masks no longer required by law in Austin area "Austin Public Health on Friday announced that local mask mandates will no longer exist, but instead will morph into recommendations for what residents should do in public." (Austin American-Statesman)

Texas Senate passes bill that would ban public camping, using parks for designated homeless camps "A measure that would ban public camping statewide passed the Texas Senate in a 28-3 vote May 20, and after final review in the Legislature it could be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott and become effective this year. House Bill 1925, authored by several members of the Texas House and sponsored by state Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, would make camping in public spaces including parks a Class C misdemeanor, require local governments to seek state approval for the establishment of designated campsites for the homeless and prevent such camps from being located in parkland. The bill passed the House on May 6." (Community Impact)

Austin housing market breaks another record as median home price hits $550,000 "Record-breaking milestones continue for the Austin real estate market, according to the Austin Board of Realtors' latest data. ABoR's April 2021 report, released May 18, details new all-time highs and unprecedented growth at the city, county, and metro levels." (CultureMap)

Austin to loosen Covid vaccine, distancing rules for live music and events "[A]s more and more Central Texans get vaccinated and Covid-related hospitalizations wane, the city known for live music is priming itself for a return to relative normalcy. As part of that process, the Austin Center for Events announced Wednesday that it’s revising the health and safety requirements it laid out in March for organizing events. Starting next week, officials say event organizers applying for permits won’t have to require attendees to prove they’re vaccinated." (Austin Monitor)

Pease Park’s $15 Million Kingsbury Commons Project Opens Next Month "Donated to the City of Austin in 1875 by Texas Governor Elisha M. Pease, the 84-acre Pease Park is Austin’s oldest civic green space outside of the downtown public squares laid out in the city’s original plan, and next month the facility will debut its most significant upgrade since the park’s first major improvements nearly a century ago." (Towers)

Hotel purchased to house Austin's homeless will instead house family violence survivors "Austin leaders have abandoned plans to convert a hotel the city purchased to house people experiencing homelessness and instead will use it to house another vulnerable population: family violence survivors. The decision came Thursday when the City Council authorized a contract with the SAFE Alliance, which has a waiting list of people trying to get beds at the shelters it owns and operates. SAFE will receive $2.1 million to manage the city's shelter for a year. The money comes from funds the council freed up in 2020 when it cut $21 million from the Austin Police Department budget to reinvest in a shelter and services for family violence survivors." (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin City Council updates in-lieu fee program for affordable housing "The fees that developers of certain projects in downtown Austin must pay in lieu of providing affordable housing were updated for the first time in years following a vote by City Council May 20. However, the new fees may prove to be a temporary step toward modernizing the city's fee schedule ahead of a more comprehensive recalibration in the coming months." (Community Impact)

Austin Charts New Territory With Project Connect Anti-Displacement Fund "When Austin voters approved financing for the Project Connect transit plan in November 2020, they created along with it a $300 million anti-displacement fund, aiming to offset the increase in housing costs expected along the corridors served by new rail and rapid bus routes. While that investment makes up a small slice of that $7.1 billion pie, it's the largest program of its kind to be launched in the U.S., and it nearly doubles the amount of city tax dollars that voters have approved for affordable housing. As the city's first community displacement prevention officer, Nefertitti Jackmon will have the task of overseeing that fund." (Austin Chronicle)