No more single-family lots? Activists raise alarm about density in certain areas


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Worried about higher taxes and possibly being forced out of their homes, a group called Community Not Commodity created a “transition zones” map that shows where they fear higher density would lead to displacement. 

“It might be less. It could be more in some places, but this is our best guest,” said activist Barbara McArthur.

On its website, the group said it looked at major transit corridors and took into consideration different lot sizes to create the map. 

Last month, the Austin City Council asked City Manager Spencer Cronk to start drafting the new Land Development Code for Austin based on the guidlines the council provided.

In it, the council said it would like to see more housing options in transition zones along major corridors. They’re areas that gradually change from neighborhoods to more commercial areas. Density often increases as you move toward commercialized streets. 

“It impacts all parts of Austin,” said McArthur. “I think we can expect much taller buildings into the neighborhoods.”

She fears the change would mean the days of having single-family homes in transition zones will be gone. She’s also worried redevelopment would lead to higher taxes.

“Our taxes will probably increase on our land because when you can do something more with your land, the taxes go up, so it really impacts older people who maybe don’t have the money to see their taxes to go up their much,” she said.

However, people who support having higher density said developers will still look at what makes sense for the lot.

“They’ll build a model that best fits the outcomes,” said Cesar Acosta, Board Member of AURA. “That may be a threeplex, a quadplex or it might be a single-family unit. It just depends on what area it is, what the market is asking for that area.” 

He said rezoning to allow for more types of housing creates opportunities. “It could mean smaller businesses like daycare or a smaller coffee shop, a local grocery store. It could mean duplexes, quadplexes. It’s just that there has to be an opportunity for those things to exist,” Acosta said. 

He said it’s also important to add more housing options to major transit corridors. 

“It’s one of those chicken or egg things,” Acosta explained. “Do you put the transit there and the people will come or do you put the buildings there and the transit will come. The answer for now is that we can plan for both.”

McArthur said she’s still worried, saying, “It makes me a little sad that there’s not enough concern about the people who already live here.” 

It is important to note, however, the city has not made any decisions on where the transition zones will be and what will happen to them.

City officials are working on preparing a draft Land Development Code and zoning map.

The City Council has asked to see the draft by October. The team working on the new code said it’s too early to commit to a firm deadline. 

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