Some Central Austin neighbors against proposed land development code


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is working to revise the city’s decades-old land development code and released a draft of the new plan at the beginning of October.

However, there are some homeowners across the city upset and believe “CodeNEXT” is back. Homeowners have put up yard signs that read: “CodeNEXT is BACK – Let’s Save Our City.”

RELATED: Austin aims to increase affordability in new land development code draft

“To be honest we feel a little threatened by the code we think it might break up the close-knit nature of the neighborhood and we’re very concerned about that,” David Guarino said, a longtime Hancock neighbor who believes the new proposed zoning for his neighborhood will impact the nature of the community which is something he said you cannot build.

“No, no,” he said. “That grows and it contributes to the city because that’s part of the cultural life of the city.”

The city is proposing Guarino’s neighborhood to be zoned into a Residential Multi-Unit area or RM1. That means lots that right now have just one home could end up with duplexes and townhouses, and some of them could have a much larger footprint than those that currently surround Guarino.

Overall, city officials said the goal of the proposed revised code is not just to provide more housing but affordable housing.

Yet, Guarino isn’t so sure it will work.

“The reason that’s not going to work is because to build new and to build big you’re going to have to acquire the land first that cost money, you’re going to have to tear all of this down that cost money then you’re going to have to build and that’s going to cost money,” he said.

MORE: Draft of Land Development code aims to let Austin build 6 times more affordable housing

While Guarino understands the need for more affordable housing. He believes this zoning in his neighborhood is not the answer.

“I hope we can find a way out of this that will be equitable for everybody but will also keep in mind what we have here and why this matters and why it matters that we not just preserve housing but also preserve community,” Guarino said.

City staff tells KXAN that under the RM1 zone single-family use is not allowed, but an existing single-family home like Guarino’s can stay and homeowners are allowed to remodel, demolish and rebuild their homes. The zone has a max height of 40’ and city staff adds the maximum dwelling units per lot allowed without taking a bonus is six units, but under this zoning, a duplex is also allowed which means as few as two units are allowed.

At present, only 3% of the acreage in Austin is zoned in a way that builders can receive bonuses for adding density. City staff tells KXAN that under the proposed land development code revision the amount of eligible land would expand to 17% of the total acreage in the city.

According to numbers city staff compiled, Austin has the capacity to build 145,000 more units of total housing and 1,500 units of income-restricted affordable housing under the existing code.

City staff projects that under the revised land development code, the city would instead be able to build 397,000 units of total housing and nearly 9,000 units of income-restricted affordable housing.

Staff explained that this sixfold increase in the amount of affordable housing the city could build would be made possible by bonuses offered to developers, which would, in turn, allow these developers to add more market-rate housing. Staff also said the revised plan gets the city just shy of its Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint goal to add 405,000 units of housing to the city

Public Input Opportunities

On Thursday, city staff will host a public testing event, an interactive, technical exercise that will allow the public to test configurations of five zoning scenarios. The testing is from 1 p.m to 8 p.m. at City Hall.

Then, on Saturday, city staff will host an open house consisting of a walkable demonstration that will show the community what the proposed code changes could look like by focusing on missing middle housing types, transportation and parking, and much more. The open house starts at 10 a.m. in east Austin at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center.

Finally, on Wednesday, Oct. 23 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Austin Central Library, another open house will take place.

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