Entire Austin City Council approves affordable housing resolution


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The entire Austin City Council approved a resolution to relax building regulations for dense, affordable housing developments. 

The unanimous vote Thursday advanced a resolution that District 4 Council Member Greg Casar introduced earlier this month with lofty goals. 

“In some instances we know that we can create 50 percent, 100 percent, 600 percent more homes for low-and moderate-income families if we ease restrictions on affordable housing,” Casar said at a news conference before Thursday’s council meeting. 

As KXAN’s Yoojin Cho previously reported, if a development meets certain percentage requirements for affordable units, some standards could be waived, including height, setbacks from the property lines and parking.  

“This resolution is not a silver bullet solution to the crisis,” District One Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said Thursday. “We have a lot more work to do to make sure everyone in Austin, regardless of income level, can afford their rent or property tax bill.” 

Before they voted Thursday, several council members suggested their own changes to the resolution. For example, they talked about dealing with gentrification. They discussed the need to provide protections and help to tenants so that they have a right to come back when an affordable development is built or renovated. 

More than a dozen neighbors also signed up to address City Council to either talk about their support of the resolution or to share their concerns. 

Jim Templeton, an Austin-based realtor, discussed his opinion about the city potentially changing the land development code regarding the height or size of buildings. 

“Building a three-story monolith that is hiding half the front yard and half the backyard will in fact harm those persons and will remove the light that they see, the view that they see,” Templeton said. 

The current language, however, is not set just yet. Once an ordinance is drafted by city management, it will then go to the Planning Commission for more scrutiny and fine tuning. 

The City Council expects to cast a final vote on the proposal in May. 

Supporters of the proposal said at the news conference Thursday that this will ultimately streamline the process to address the housing crisis facing Austin. 

“More than a thousand people a week move to Austin,” Michael Gerber, the president and CEO of the Austin Housing Authority, said. “We need creative solutions that cut through red tape to help get as much affordable housing on the ground as we can.”

Council members also intend to put some of the $250 million earmarked for affordable housing after last fall’s bond election toward this initiative. 

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