Construction on the Park at 51st housing development in Northeast Austin in August 2022. MIKE CHRISTEN/ABJ

Austin Business Journal reports, "a push by a handful of Austin-based nonprofits to expedite construction of denser, more affordable housing has garnered a response from City Hall.

A coalition of housing-focused organizations issued a call to city leaders on July 7 to expedite code changes to enable developers to build denser and faster than previously allowed. The letter was from the Austin Housing Coalition, Transit Forward, HousingWorks Austin and the Austin Justice Coalition.

About two weeks later, Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution July 20 that authorizes the city manager to propose code amendments that complement the city’s ongoing piecemeal changes to its land development code. The ultimate goal is to streamline development and prioritize the creation of new housing.

The resolution called for new tools for the city manager, including eliminating unnecessary or outdated provisions, addressing conflicts between indirectly related sections, lounge clarification and proposing improvements that complement changes initiated by Council.

Council approved the resolution with no discussion. Greg Anderson, a member of Austin's Planning Commission and vocal proponent for reform of the city's decades-old LDC, recently shared his support for the changes, among others being taken at City Hall to prioritize the development of more housing (listen to a recent conversation with Anderson on the ATX Ahead podcast below.)

"This Council has initiated amazing things but the work has not been completed," Anderson wrote in a July 30 email.

He is also calling for expedited action, sharing that changes could take up to two years to take effect, if not more depending on who holds an elected post on Council.

Anderson added he is "100% excited" about the recent changes enacted by Council.

“We simply need to be able to add urgency to the staff side of the equation in order to return these items to Council so they may complete the job,” Anderson said.

Elimination of parking minimums, other changes prioritized

In addition to the Council vote giving the city manager more authority to draft code changes, city staffers are moving up timelines for some of the more than 30 land development code changes — large and small — proposed in recent years by Council and the Planning Commission.

Under the new timeline announced in a July 13 memo by Planning Department Director Lauren Middleton-Pratt, city staff have accelerated the drafting process for plans that have been given an initial nod of approval by Council — although all will need to go before the board again for final approval.

The new timeline followed Council's approval of a prioritization plan the prior month, which came after a May review by Council's Housing and Planning Committee.

"Staff understands the urgency of these amendments, particularly those that have the potential to increase housing supply and income-restricted housing for the Austin community and is committed to compressing timelines to adoption where feasible and as additional resources are identified," Middleton-Pratt stated in the memo.

The timeline could lead to a streamlined density bonus program going before Council in July 2024 instead of September 2024, as originally planned.

Staff also intend to bring back an ordinance to eliminate mandatory parking requirements through the city by the end of the year, instead of by April 2024.

The approval process will require public hearings at Planning Commission and City Council.

Staffers are also currently working with Portland, Oregon-based consulting firm ECO Northwest to "fine-tune" planned amendments to the South Central Waterfront Regulating Plan. The regulating plan serves as the guardrails for the development of properties in the city’s South Central Waterfront District, a largely urban area just south of Lady Bird Lake. The district includes the old headquarters of the Austin American-Statesman, where Endeavor Real Estate Group is guiding a redevelopment that could result in six towers with housing, offices a hotel and more at 305 South Congress Ave.

Middleton-Pratt shared that consultant support will also be needed for a plan to introduce new zoning districts in addition to a citywide review of compatibility standards."


Source: Austin Business Journal

Written by: Mike Christen

Published: August 1, 2023

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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