Austin Business Journal reports, "developers and homebuilders may soon have the opportunity to build more housing in Austin.

Austin City Council on July 20 gave the first nod of approval to a proposal that would decrease the minimum lot size of residential properties.

Introduced by Council Member Leslie Pool, the proposed amendment to the city’s land development code calls for decreasing the minimum lot size from 5,750 to 2,500 square feet or less, with the intention of increasing the variety of housing types possible, including row homes and garden homes.

The proposal also directs Interim City Manager Jesús Garza to alter the code to allow at least three units per lot in single-family zoning districts without requiring existing structures to be preserved.

The decision was approved 9-2, with Council Members Alison Alter and Mackenzie Kelly casting dissenting votes. The resolution calls for Garza to bring policies back to Council for votes later this year, with "one or more" ready by mid-December.

Supporters of the changes say they represent a major step toward increasing housing supply after years of spiraling housing costs. Austin is falling behind on goals outlined in its Strategic Housing Blueprint, adopted in 2017, to create 135,000 homes within 10 years.

The resolution approved by City Council also calls for the creation of new site development regulations that would facilitate the creation of smaller lots in areas zoned for residential use. And it calls for adjustments to regulations for setbacks, height, impervious cover and floor-to-area ratio, eliminating minimum site area and building coverage requirements and methods to mitigate potential runoff from the increase in impervious cover that the changes will create.

That means a lot of details still need to be worked out but the changes so far are heartening for pro-density advocates. Deleigh Hermes, a Realtor at Keller Williams Realty Inc., shared support for the new standards during the meeting. She was one of many who addressed Council during an hours-long public comment period.

Sharing that developers typically operate under the standard that a home should sell for three times the value of the property that it sits on, Hermes said the creation of more smaller homes would help the city with its goal to create more housing, and especially more attainably priced housing.

"This is for the people who serve Austin and deserve to live in Austin," Hermes said. "I want my clients to be able to buy a $400,000 home or a $450,000 home here in Austin. This is for our bartenders, our firefighters."

Taylor Jackson, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, said the change would decrease the average cost of a new home.

"The cost of land is the largest contributor to the price of a home," Jackson said, emphasizing that 73% of Austinites cannot afford the median price of a home in the city — the Austin Board of Realtors reports that was $545,000 last month.

But some worry that smaller minimum lot sizes could have unintended consequences. Texas already has the nation’s fifth-smallest median lot size, with properties averaging about 9,500 square feet, or roughly 0.22 acres. Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada are the only states with smaller median lot sizes, according to a 2022 study from the online home services company Angie.

The greater Austin metro had the second-largest lots in the state, according to the same study.

Sharon Gillespie, a local homeowner, said the changes would amount to "a windfall for local developers while degrading existing neighborhoods.""


Source: Austin Business Journal

Written by: Mike Christen

Published: July 21, 2023

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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