AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council on Thursday will once again take up an idea aimed at getting more affordable housing built within the city.
The council is set to consider adding a new tier to its Vertical Mixed-Use development program. VMUs typically provide commercial space on the ground floor of buildings and homes on the upper floors.
Known as VMU2, the proposal up for consideration would allow developers to build 30 feet taller than the current rules allow in areas zoned for vertical mixed-use.
In exchange, 12% of all rental units would have to be set aside for households earning no more than 60% of the Austin-Round Rock median family income (see 2021 data below).
VMU2 would give developers a second option to set aside 10% of rental units those earning up to 50% of the median family income.
Developments that would include homes for sale would have to offer 12% of their inventory to those earning 80% or the median family income — or builders could opt of providing affordable housing altogether and instead pay a fee “equivalent to 12% of total units.”
The council was to vote on VMU2 back in April but postponed to June 9.
Austin Habitat for Humanity (AHFH) announced its support for the proposal in a letter to the city council.
KXAN spoke with AHFH’s director of community affairs, Greg Anderson.
“Vertical mixed-use two has the potential to produce a ton of housing, both market rate housing and affordable, income-restricted housing units along all of our best corridors,” Anderson said.
Ana Aguirre, President of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, told KXAN though she supports vertical mixed-use, she is concerned that taller, and likely more expensive, VMU developments could further drive up property taxes in nearby neighborhoods where some residents are already struggling to stay in their homes.
“The increased height — that will automatically have an impact on the value of the properties surrounding that property,” she said. “Again, another way that we’re going to be displaced.”
Aguirre said if VMU2 gets the OK from the city council, she hopes future projects will require individual approval by the city to allow for community input.
Anderson, who is also a member of the city’s Planning Commission, said project-by-project approval could slow construction and keep Austin in a housing crisis.
“That’s just not the way to build housing,” he said.