Austin releases revamped rules on what kind of buildings can be built

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin released Friday a new draft Land Development Code. The code and map update the city’s current rules on what kind of buildings — single-family, multifamily or high rises — can be built where.

“We urgently need a new code in this city,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

  • HOW DOES IT AFFECT WHERE YOU LIVE? You can read the proposals on the city’s website.
  • Using this map, you can compare the current and proposed zoning.

“The City’s approach to revising the Code is to learn from the past, care for the present, and plan for the future,” said co-lead Annick Beaudet. “We are grateful for the policy direction provided by the City Council, and believe we were able to provide a thoughtful, context-sensitive approach in this draft.”

Some examples of changes being made under the new code include:

  • Transition zones
  • Accessory dwelling units
  • Density bonus programs

Transition zones. What are they? Where are they?

Transition zones are near well-connected, busy streets. One example is South Congress Avenue.

City officials said, on average, they extend about 500 to 700 feet from the corridor. Transition zones make up about 2 percent of the city.

The code is designed to increase, over time, the number of duplexes or triplexes, often called the missing-middle housing, in those zones.

If you have a single-family home there already, you can keep it or even rebuild it.

Brent Lloyd with the Development Services Department said, “Homeowners would have the option to demolish and rebuild a single-family home. It’s only when a homeowner adds units and actually takes advantage of the goals and potentials of transition areas and actually builds more units, then you cannot go back to a single unit.”

Accessory dwelling units and density bonus programs

The new code allows you to build accessory dwelling units, sometimes called ‘granny flats,’ in all residential zones as long as you have a big enough lot.

City officials said you still have to go through the permit process, and the city will need to assess the possibility of building an ADU on your lot, but you now have the option to build an ADU in all residential zones.

Additionally, in an effort to increase affordable housing, the code is expanding the availability of density bonus programs.

Erica Leak with the Neighborhood Housing & Community Development Department said, “With the existing code, only 3 percent of the city had some sort of zoning that had a density bonus included.”

The incentive program allows builder to build taller buildings as long as they meet the requirements of having affordable units in their buildings.

“We have an affordability challenge in this city that we should treat with urgency,” said Adler. “We’re losing people in communities because there’s not enough housing, and limited housing forces up prices. And people have to move further and further away and their transportation costs go up.”

What happens next?

Last summer, the city’s previous effort to overhaul its zoning rules collapsed. The city spent millions of dollars on CodeNEXT, but the city council ultimately decided to give up and restart the process.

The new code rewrite attempt has been delayed once already.

Austin City Council members will spend the weekend reading and understanding the new draft, and they’ll meet next Tuesday to discuss the draft.

“I’m really excited to dig into this,” said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. “In the last process, I went and read every single word of the document. I intend to do that again and ensure that it actually accomplishes the goals we’re looking for, which is housing affordability and ways that can support and channel growth in our community exactly where we want it.”

Mayor Adler said, “We need a lot more supply. We need the supply of housing where people want to live. I think we owe it to ourselves to actually pick up the hardest, thorniest challenges we have as a city and fix them.”

City officials emphasize what they released Friday is a draft.

You will have opportunities to provide input.

  • October 19 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center (808 Nile St., 78702)
  • October 23 – 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Austin Central Library (710 W Cesar Chavez St., 78701)

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