Austin City Council meets Tuesday to discuss future of affordable housing


AUSTIN (KXAN) — At present, the median home price in Austin is $536,000, according to the latest data from the Austin Board of Realtors. On average, rent is about $1,500 a month, and those numbers are only expected to continue to go up as the city continues to grow.

Tuesday, the Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler will meet to discuss options that could help address the affordable housing issues the city is facing. There are about a dozen items listed up for discussion with the mayor’s list consisting of 10.

Those items include everything from reviewing the land development code and changes that could allow for homes and apartments being built in areas currently zoned “commercial” to looking at the addition of more Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs. Those are small homes such as a granny flat, a pool house, cottages that would be able to sit on the same lot as a single-family home. Currently, there are some restrictions surrounding ADUs city leaders could look to remove such as age constraints.

Some of the proposals are similar to those of HousingWorks Austin, a nonprofit that aims to boost the supply of affordable housing. The group is also proposing city leaders consider building affordable housing all across the city, including west Austin where prices tend to be higher.

The recommendations presented by HousingWorks Austin are just some of the solutions those at the nonprofit say could help the city reach its Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint goal of 135,000 affordable housing units by 2028.

This graphic from housing advocacy group HousingWorks Austin illustrates what types of neighbors fall into different income levels in the city of Austin. (Source: HousingWorks Austin)
This graphic from housing advocacy group HousingWorks Austin illustrates what types of neighbors fall into different income levels in the city of Austin. (Source: HousingWorks Austin)

Data from HousingWorks shows since the goal was adopted in 2017, the city has built close to 26,000 affordable housing units or a little more than 19% of the plan’s ten-year goal. The city would need to build at least 10,000 units or more each year to stay on track and meet its goal of 135,000.

“We would like to see affordable opportunities for everyone ensuring that whether folks are first-time buyers, whether they’re renters, whether they’re folks experiencing homelessness — all have a housing opportunity that suits their needs, affordable, good quality and healthy housing,” said Awais Azhar, the nonprofit’s advocacy committee chair.

This snapshot from housing advocacy group HousingWorks Austin showcases the need for affordable housing units. (Source: HousingWorks Austin)

The Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) also submitted recommendations for reducing barriers to housing to council along with ABoR ADU recommendations and Land Development Code Policy.

Seat at the Table

Housing advocates are not alone in their efforts to work with city leaders on finding a solution. The City of Austin’s College Student Commission, comprised of 15 members representing UT Austin, St. Edwards University, Huston-Tillotson University, Concordia University Texas, and Austin Community College, is working to make sure college students who struggle with rent have a seat at the table, too.

The group plans to finalize a list of affordable housing recommendations to pass along to city leaders, giving students a voice in the discussion.

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