Today, there's no mandate for housing in Austin to provide air conditioning. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Community Impact Austin reports, "A new city mandate for air conditioning in all residences is moving closer to final approval, and residents can weigh in on the change in July.

What's happening

The city is in the process of revising its technical codes, including its first proposed air conditioning mandate under the building code.

The update would require all residential property owners to keep rooms at least 15 degrees cooler than outdoor temperatures, and no hotter than 85 degrees Fahrenheit at most.

If implemented, the standards would apply for all existing properties and new construction in Austin.

Austinites can weigh in on the new building code items online until July 24. The revisions will also be discussed at the July 9 planning commission meeting before heading to City Council later this summer for final approval.

The provisions are proposed to go into effect in January, although council would finalize that timeline. If adopted, the city's development services department would enforce the cooling rule through its inspections team for new buildings and through code compliance teams in existing residences.

The big picture

Despite the city's often oppressive summers, property owners aren't obligated to keep their residents cool in their homes.

Texas law doesn't call for air conditioning, and statewide legislation that would have forced landlords to provide air conditioning stalled in 2023.

However, other large cities, such as Dallas and Houston, do impose their own rules for residential cooling to certain temperature levels. According to city officials, Austin's new cooling standards were inspired by the ordinances now on the books in Dallas.

Local officials moved to cement a similar cooling requirement during Austin's hot summer last year. The change comes as Austin continues to experience dangerous summer heat and will likely see more extreme summers in the decades ahead.

“Just taking one step outside will show you why we need this," said council member Vanessa Fuentes, who sponsored the update, in a 2023 statement. "When our neighbors are collapsing from heat illness, suffering from exhaustion and facing high wildfire risks, they’re going to need a cool place to stay."

Zooming out

Despite the lack of any legal requirement, most Texas residences are already air conditioned.

Just 1.23% of the state's millions of occupied housing units—about 132,000—didn't have air conditioning as of 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau American Housing Survey estimates. More recent census figures weren't available for Austin."

Source: Community Impact Austin

Written by: Ben Thompson

Published: July 5, 2024

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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