Austin homeowners say zoning is pushing out single-family homes

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin homeowners gathered at a press conference at City Hall Monday morning to oppose Austin’s Commercial Real Estate Industry.

The homeowners with Save Our City Austin, discussed the industry’s plan to change how single-family homes are zoned in Austin, which they believe would make housing prices escalate even more than they already are.

The group presented their report, “A Trojan Horse from the Austin Commercial Real Estate Industry.” They claim the commercial real estate industry is using the new zoning as a way to commercialize single-family zoned properties for cheap. The group claims the zoning would lead to higher prices, exploitation of current homeowners and eventually destroy neighborhoods.

“By turning our single-family neighborhoods into multi-use commercial developments, the real estate industry will make larger profits, but ravage our unique neighborhoods that make Austin special. Austin will only have a strong city if we have strong neighborhoods,” said business lawyer Mike Hebert of Hancock neighborhood in Central Austin.

The city of Austin has been rewriting its land development code for more than a year and a half through the program CodeNEXT.

CodeNEXT Project Lead Matthew Lewis says the code will be rewritten for multiple housing types, saying they want variety. However, they are still working with the community to draft the code.

Save Our City Austin says a survey by the Austin Business Journal found 80 percent of local business leaders surveyed said Austin’s rapid population growth is causing the lack of affordability. The city’s density has increased 57 percent over the past 15 years, but affordability continues to decrease.

CodeNEXT says the rewriting of zoning rules will help make Austin more livable and affordable.

Fred Lewis of Save our City Austin disagrees with the real estate industry. “What they’re actually doing is not promoting affordability, they’re causing gentrification and they’re displacing less affluent Austinites from their neighborhoods,” said Lewis.

“I live in a single-family house. Many of our members do. Single-family neighborhoods are part of the fabric of this community,” said Ward Tisdale, president of the Real Estate Council of Austin.

Tisdale says the commercial real estate industry is not looking to end single-family zoning. However, he says with more people moving to Austin, the city must consider density.

“We’re having an affordability problem because we simply don’t have enough supply to meet the demand,” said Tisdale.

Tisdale also released this statement to KXAN News:

Save Our City says the commercial real estate industry has made this claim when no such claim has ever been made by Central Texas’ largest commercial real estate organization – the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA), or any other local real estate organization. RECA believes Austin’s affordability crisis can be solved in a variety of ways, including by adding more supply of all types of housing in all parts of the city and by streamlining the development review process.”

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