The ongoing discussion, if not battle, between developers and conservationists is continuing. This time, The City of Austin’s sweeping zoning changes are threatening the endangered cool, shabby, and expensive single family residential neighborhoods. The fear is the large towers will change the complexion. Surely, they will add to the already clogged thoroughfares. This time, however, the City and the residents are in the courts, while developers wait the outcome. At least to 2022.
Austin American Statesman : Texas Appeals Court Enters Fight
Austin Business Journal : Hearing for Land Development Code
Most agree that we need more affordable houses. Currently developers, especially the smaller ones, feel that it is city code itself that obviates lower costs. Many have wanted to see permission for more density – like garage apartments. But that is now old news, as large numbers of people are moving in. A lion’s share of these are from outside Texas, where towers are more common. Given that companies are coming in, there is reason to believe that towers will continue to be good investments.
Few foresaw the magnitude for the influx. The real estate brokerage community has watched carefully, for some years, as the various code changes have been attempted. At this point, just to get a stable code, even with much less aggressive goals would be welcomed.
At issue in the court now is whether the city has to have the same kind of agreement from residents for large changes as for small.
In a surprising but now familiar pattern, the liberal Adler and city council say they should do what they can while they over-rule the residents, who were at once considered to be following liberal causes and presumably are represented by mayor and council. Suggested way forward is an amendment to permit residential uses in commercial zones – meaning towers in commercial rather than residential spaces. It seems like a reasonable plan.
Austin Chronicle: City Council on S Lamar
The crux of the issue, beyond the ongoing culture of politics in Austin, seems to be grasping for a mechanism for ensuring “affordable” housing. The state prohibits “inclusory zoning.” Thus, Austin used incentives and restrictive covenants, and is afraid of losing oversight power.
Many questions arise: Why was this (building in commercial space and guarding the existing neighborhood feel) not suggested earlier? Why is 60% of median income considered affordable? Why is building code considered a great impediment, enforcing the building of larger, more expensive homes? Why can not all parties agree, since we all more more housing, more affordable housing, and will accept more density in some cases? Wonder if we could lock representative parties in a room, with a discussion facilitator or two, and not let them out until they reached an agreement?
Here is the review sheet from Statesman : Review Sheet 2019