AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Republican state lawmaker filed a bill that, if passed, would scrub some of the City of Austin’s compatibility laws. Those laws restrict how tall buildings can be when they’re built next to certain zoning, including single-family homes.
Council Member Chito Vela of District 4 described compatibility as “a force field” around some homes. In the City of Austin, there’s a sliding scale of permissible height that extends 540 feet from a single-family property, “which is a huge area,” Vela said.
That range is not on par with what other major cities around the state, or even around the country, are doing, city staff have said. The bill, filed by Senator Bryan Hughes, would strip the radius allowed to just 50 feet in major Texas cities.
Even though Vela said he doesn’t think the change should be made at the state level, it is something Austin City Council is largely looking to change as well.
“We have the strictest compatibility measure by far and we need to bring ourselves in line with other major cities,” he said.
A huge reason for that: Austin’s housing crisis. Council has previously noted that allowing developers to build higher will allow them to build more units. Council last month approved a measure that eased some of those restrictions along travel corridors.
Even then, council noted they were taking a step, but not doing enough.
“I would also add that there’s still much work to be done in the land development code. I’ll be eating my popcorn,” then-Mayor Steve Adler said in his last city council meeting.
Meanwhile, some community members showed up to express concern about the possibility of taller buildings going next to residential neighborhoods, saying it would “drive people and families out of existing neighborhoods.”
Ultimately, Vela said the city needs places for people to live to address its housing crisis and allowing developers to build up allows them to build more.
“We really want to put housing on those [travel] corridors so we can get people out of their cars and into our light rail system that’s soon to built or onto our quality bus lines, the project connect bus lines, that are also in the works right now,” he said.