What do transition zones in proposed land development code do to single-family homes?

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A petition is going around Austin saying the new proposed Land Development Code (LDC) is going to displace even more people by driving up property values.

The code determines how land can be used throughout the city, including what can be built where.

“We’re the 11th largest city in the nation. We double our population every 20 years, and it’s our duty as city administrators to plan for that growth,” said Annick Beaudet, co-lead of the Land Development Code revision team.

The proposal creates “transition zones.”

Beaudet said when they studied which areas should be included, they followed the Austin City Council’s direction, which said, “They should be mapped adjacent to our activity corridors or main transportation corridors where we’re having significant infrastructure investment.”

In transition zones, Beaudet explained, if you’re an owner of a single-family home, you can keep it, remodel it or rebuild it.

But whereas the current code limits you to single-family homes, the new codes gives you an option to build something with up to four or six units, depending on where you are in the transition zone.

“It’s the homeowner’s choice to increase and use the new zone that would allow additional units,” Beaudet said.

The only thing to keep in mind, however, is that if you build an extra unit on your property, you cannot go back to having just one.

That worries people like Vanessa Calabria.

“You can see it’s just a one lane in and one lane out,” she said. “The parking on the street is already really bad in front of the homes.”

On Calabria’s street, the current single-family zoning would change to “missing middle” housing of up to six units.

“I don’t think that they have proper infrastructure,” she said. “Kids walking to school, traffic jams, I don’t even think they thought it out.”

When KXAN asked about infrastructure improvements, Beaudet assured us, the code update is happening at the same time as the city’s long-term plan to improve roads and public transit options.

“It’s an ongoing discussion with them on how to best plan for utilities with how we’re planning for comprehensive growth,” she said. “They’re both going to work together in a time frame that is reasonable.”

One question remains, however: what happens to people’s property values and taxes?

Beaudet told us, “Nobody can know for sure what’s going to happen with the market. It is a no. 1 question we’ve been getting through this process. We’ve been talking to a lot of people, and in fact, we are coordinating with the tax office to really understand how things will work.”

Additionally, Beaudet explained if every lot were to build the maximum number of units allowed under the proposed code, the city would add 405,000 new housing units.

But realistically, she said some lots will be limited due to its size and other factors. They expect the proposed zoning changes to lead to creating 135,000 new housing units over the next decade.

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