Habitat for Humanity, which has helped add affordable housing to cities for more than 40 years, says Austin’s zoning rewrite known as CodeNEXT is a bit disappointing but has potential.

Nothing the city of Austin is currently doing could have a bigger impact on affordable housing than CodeNEXT, which is now in its third draft. The Planning Commission is meeting again Wednesday to discuss the planned zoning changes and potential pitfalls.

“The impact that we could have through a beneficial code as it relates to affordable housing is orders of magnitude greater than what we’ve been able to do in 30 years building houses one at time,” explained Wayne Gerami, the Vice President of Client Services for Habitat for Humanity.

Right now, CodeNext would add thousands of new affordable housing units, but Habitat for Humanity says it does not go far enough.

“We’re excited about the possibilities in CodeNEXT. It’s not there yet,” Gerami said. “It’s not a product that is substantially better than what currently exists.”

Habitat for Humanity is pushing for a couple things in CodeNEXT:

  • More affordable housing units overall
  • More types of housing, like townhomes and cottages
  • Support for the density bonus program, which incentivizes developers to build affordable housing units in exchange for more units overall.

And as long as CodeNEXT isn’t final just yet, Habitat for Humanity plans to keep pushing for changes.

“We don’t think right now the correct response is to quit and just throw our hands up and give up. We’re trying to stay engaged. We’re trying to stay a part of the process to make positive changes in the code.”

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