Everyone knows what sets Austin apart. It’s the hill country, the university, the music scene, breakfast tacos, the state Capitol and, of course, the friendly people. But a huge part of what makes Austin, Austin, goes unnoticed. The City’s land development code determines where and what kind of homes can be built, how neighborhoods are developed, where businesses can locate, the footprint roads can occupy, where fire stations and grocery stores are placed, and even the shape of your front yard.
Even though Austin’s current land development code has made things difficult in a variety of ways, if it is rewritten in a way that makes sense, it can be the solution to many of the challenges we face. Mobility, affordability, and opportunity –– Austin’s most pressing priorities –– can all be dramatically improved if we adopt a structurally sound land development code with better tools to manage development. The good news is: the vast majority of Austinites favor a code that allows for a greater diversity of housing types, enables us to address traffic, affordability, and other challenges that growing communities face.
We know we’re going to grow. Most estimates forecast that the Austin metro area population will be three million people in less than 15 years! Managing that growth in a responsible, reliable, predictable manner is the key to maintaining what’s great about Austin and fixing what’s not. That’s why it is so important to provide for housing that is within reach for anyone who wants to rent or purchase a home. Much of the housing built in Austin today is either very dense apartment-style housing or high-end single-family homes. What’s missing is the middle: that’s why ABoR is advocating for a greater range of medium-scale options such as townhomes, duplexes, triplex and cottage court style housing.
The Austin Board of REALTORS will continue to be engaged in CodeNEXT to call for a code that creates:
CodeNEXT must allow for an abundance of housing along major corridors (e.g. Lamar, Burnet) that makes transit more workable. Major corridors should be buffered by zoning that allows gentle gradations and building variety that scales to neighborhood centers. This makes neighborhoods more walkable and reduces congestion without changing the character of core residential neighborhoods.
We cannot improve affordability in Austin without allowing a greater range of medium-scale housing, such as townhomes, duplexes, and multiplexes. The sharp increase in the cost of land in Central Austin means that new single-family housing is well out of reach of most Austinites. The new code must leverage opportunities to add medium-scale options, especially in transition zones along corridors.
The current land development code was adopted in the 1980s and has been amended into a tangled web of confusing layers and zones. We need a code that is structurally sound and maintains transparency around how properties can be developed. This means adopting a code with fewer overlays and accessible zoning.
Adopting a new code means taking advantage of opportunities to put in place better tools to address some of the hardships of rapid growth. CodeNEXT should advance this by deploying best practices for addressing traffic, adding a well-formulated affordability bonus program, and adopting standards that reduce flooding and drainage issues, as well as improving access to parks.
Download our CodeNEXT Conversation Guide to help keep colleagues and clients informed about CodeNEXT.
Download our CodeNEXT Conversation Guide and mark your calendars to attend one of the City of Austin’s Public Input Sessions on Saturday, April 28 and Tuesday, May 1.Learn More Here