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Austin City Council Direction on the Land Development Code Revision
ULI Code Rewrite Workgroup Comments
September 10, 2019
Members of the ULI Austin Code Rewrite Workgroup (ULI Workgroup) took time to review the Austin City Council Direction in Response to City Manager’s March 15, 2019 Memo re: Land Development Code Revision Policy Guidance (Council Direction) and offer comments. The Council Direction was divided amongst ULI Workgroup’s members to review the content sections in small groups and report to the full workgroup for similarities and themes. This work and the comments contained within are provided to work with the city and other stakeholders toward a Land Development Code (LDC) that aligns with ULI’s mission with special emphasis on affordability and multi‐modal transportation connectivity.
CodeNEXT Position Papers
(based on version 1.0)
As a non-partisan research organization, ULI is uniquely positioned to offer land use advice, based upon sound principles and best practices. Because ULI represents a steadfast commitment to responsible public policy, we can leverage our members’ vast expertise to inform and advise City leaders on the rewrite of the code.
Between November 2016 – April 2017 ULI Austin hosted a series of member-led roundtable discussions to examine CodeNEXT and focus on specific aspects of the Code where ULI can have the most impact.
Five work groups met monthly to do a deep dive into specific areas of the code and produce recommendations. The work groups’ position papers, listed below, were shared with City leaders and consultants advising CodeNEXT:
- Compatibility & Transition Zones <<Position Paper HERE >>
Group Leader: Fred Evins
- Regional Infrastructure << Position Paper HERE >>
Group Leaders: Megan Wanek, Endeavor Real Estate Group & Ricky DeCamps, BIG RED DOG
- Parking & Impervious Coverage <<Position Paper HERE >>
Group Leader: Andre Suissa, Titan Commercial Valuation
- Process & Culture << Position Paper HERE >>
Group Leader: Rob Parsons, Gateway Planning
- Combating Misinformation << Position Paper HERE >>
Group Leader: Brandon Frachtman, Schlosser Development Corporation
(based on version 1.0)
The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, adopted on June 15, 2012, provides a framework for the management and growth of the Austin community. The plan includes eight “Priority Programs” to implement the plan. Of these eight priority programs, four are impacted by CodeNext and important to guiding the establishment of land development policy regulations:
- Environment: All efforts should be made to preserve and protect Austin’s natural environment, especially water resources, through the installation of ‘green’ infrastructure.
- Neighborhood Character: Austin’s neighborhoods are unique and require careful, community-driven management as they evolve.
- Compact and Connected: Land development in Austin should promote high-density projects along transportation corridors, to reduce sprawl and the reliance on automobiles.
- Affordability: As Austin grows, it is critical to maintain affordable housing and services. One of the best methods is to increase the available housing stock through zoning and land development regulations geared towards increasing density, especially in central Austin and around transportation corridors.
The primary method to implement these principals was to “Revise Austin’s Development Regulations and Processes to Promote a Compact and Connected City.” This priority has evolved into ‘CodeNEXT’, which is the City of Austin initiative to revise the Land Development Code. The purpose of the ULI work group’s analysis is to demonstrate that ‘CodeNEXT 1.0’ does not meet the standard for implementation of the Priority Programs outlined in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. This paper quantifies the problems inherent in the draft code, and offers an action plan to align CodeNEXT with the goals of Imagine Austin.
ULI National Research
- ULI Article “Yes, In My Back Yard: How States and Local Communities Can Find Common Ground in Expanding Housing Choice and Opportunity” –https://americas.uli.org/report/yimby/
- Economics of Inclusionary Zoning – http://americas.uli.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/125/ULI-Documents/Economics-of-Inclusionary-Zoning.pdf
Other Local ULI Research
- “Missing Middle” Housing – What can be done to increase affordable housing for middle-income families. <<View the Report HERE >> Executive Summary begins on page 6
- The report addresses challenges that prevent the development of housing, which serves middle-income residents within the City of Austin, with a special focus on families.
- The report addresses challenges that are preventing the development of “missing-middle” housing types that can help address the needs of middle-income renters and buyers within the city.
- The report presents high-level recommendations to guide the City, housing developers, neighbors, and private- and public-sector partners as they move forward with changes to city plans, codes, and regulatory processes to develop new housing products and methods to finance such housing as part of the community’s overall response to the challenge of housing affordability.
- Housing for Musicians and Creatives – A look at the feasibility of creating affordable housing specifically for musicians and creatives. <<View the Report HERE >>
- The cost of living has escalated in Central Texas to exceed that of the national average, according to a poll conducted by BestPlaces.net. Housing is cited as the primary source for this disparity in cost of living. Yet, according to indeed.com, the average musician’s salary in Texas is approximately $25.85 per hour, which is 22% below the national average. To bridge the gap between the high cost of living and low income of musicians and artists, Mosaic Sound Collective (MSC) engaged ULI Austin as a neutral body to conduct a Technical Assistance Panel (Panel) to review the potential for the development of an affordable housing community for musicians. The Panel will consist of local experts with very different viewpoints. This is an exploratory Panel that will make recommendations to Mosaic Sound Collective.
- Housing on AISD Property: Is it a Possibility to increase teacher and staff retention rates for AISD? <<View the Report HERE >> Executive Summary begins on page 8
- ULI Austin was engaged by AISD to review affordable housing and staff/teacher housing development/redevelopment opportunities for the District’s surplus real estate properties. The purpose of this panel was to bring together industry experts specializing in affordable housing, staff/teacher housing and Austin development to evaluate the potential benefits and challenges of the various potential development options available for AISD’s surplus land. The District continues to see a decline in student enrollment and an increase in teacher attrition and firmly believes this stems from the lack of affordable housing available within the District.
Other Articles and Research
Generation Screwed, Huffington Post Highline, December 2017 (Housing portion of an article found about halfway through)
- In the late 1960s, it became illegal to deny housing to minorities. So cities instituted specific rules that drove up the price of new houses and excluded poor people—who were, disproportionately, minorities. We are still living with this legacy.
- Cities are unaffordable because the entire housing development system (zoning & permitting) is structured to produce expensive housing.
- In 1970 an unskilled worker who moved from a low-income state to a high-income state kept 79% of his increased wages after he paid for housing. A worker who made the same move in 2010 kept just 36%. For the first time in U.S. history, it no longer makes sense for an unskilled worker in Utah to head for New York in the hope of building a better life.
The Great American Single-Family Home Problem, New York Times, Dec. 1, 2017
- Building more housing more densely would help address the economic challenge of housing unaffordability in cities throughout the U.S.
- Single-family neighborhoods have plenty of room for more housing but building anything except single-family housing is taboo
- Local politics will trump the need and demand for new housing as long as this is the case
Supply Skepticism: Housing Supply and Affordability, NYU Wagner School and NYU School of Law, October 2017
- While many supply skeptics offer plausible arguments, evidence shows that supply matters for housing prices and that adding supply would increase housing affordability.
Cities turn to ‘missing middle’ housing to keep older millennials from leaving, Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2017
- Older Millennials who have driven demand for urban housing are hitting their mid-30s and starting families
- They want to stay in the urban core but apartments are no longer a good fit and they can’t afford to buy a single-family home.
- Cities across the country including Nashville and Atlanta are encouraging more Missing Middle housing as a more affordable option
Why You should Join the Fight over CodeNEXT, Austin Monthly, December 2017
- Our Land Development Code impacts everyone who lives here
- CodeNEXT is a chance our “progressive” city to address economic inequality, a century and a half of racial injustice, and climate change.
- But fears of straying from the status quo has Austin on the verge of squandering this opportunity.
How A 91-Year-Old U.S. Supreme Court Case From Ohio Echoes In Austin’s CodeNEXT Fight, KUT/Monitor Dec. 8, 2017
- The history of zoning in Austin and the nation is rooted in a desire to segregate by income and race
- People’s income dictates where and what type of housing they live in and in Austin people of color are way more likely to live in multifamily housing
- Communities like Austin with higher levels of exclusionary zoning have greater economic segregation
America crowns a new pollution king, Bloomberg, Dec. 4, 2017
- In 2016 transportation trumped power plants as the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions for the first time in 40 years
- Austin cannot be a national leader in fighting global warming without breaking with its car dependency
- Ending car dependency requires that we build more housing in the urban core so people can walk, bike and ride transit more easily.
East of the highway divide Austin’s next residential boom is on the horizon Community Impact, Nov. 29, 2017
- Rising prices in central Austin are driving people to the far eastern periphery of the city where 20k-30k houses are expected to be built in the next 15 years.
- The city provides few services or amenities in this area
- Bus service is poor requiring people to own a car
- The development will require Austin to spend more money to add services and amenities when it could simply serve more people in areas where those exist currently by adding more housing in the core.
Resolution supporting CodeNEXT reviewed by Austin ISD trustees, Community Impact Nov. 14, 2017
- Austin’s rising home prices and rents are forcing families to leave the city, resulting in a student enrollment decline for AISD
- AISD wants to play a more active role in CodeNEXT
- Specifically, the district wants to encourage more family-friendly and affordable housing near its schools, including townhomes and duplexes
Teachers are being priced out of high-rent cities, but a solution could be on the way, NBC Nightly News, February 2018
- San Francisco loses about 500 teachers every year—about 12.5% of its entire teaching staff —due to the soaring cost of housing.
- Cities looking at building “teacher villages”, funded by public and private money, to provide affordable housing to teachers in the communities they work.
Seattle Climbs but Austin Sprawls, the Myth of the Return to Cities, New York Times, May 2017
- The revitalization of urban areas gets a lot of attention, but most cities continue to grow out through sprawl instead of up through density.
- Suburbs are growing faster but prices are higher in the city meaning that lack of housing supply in urban areas is key driver of suburban growth
- From 2010 to 2016 Austin’s density declined by 5% making it second only to San Antonio for sprawl
- Both Dallas and Housing sprawled less despite significant growth
- Seattle’s density increased by 3% during that same period
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