September 2022


AISD Trying to Help Affordability

  • AISD has proposed putting affordable housing for teachers on two of its properties.
  • It has numerous proposals for each property.
  • Some of the proposals have been met with neighborhood resistance. AISD should ignore the resistance and build lots of units.

Sometimes when I write this blog I feel like I am a broken record. I am consistently writing about Central Texas and affordable housing. But then I remember that it really is the biggest (or at least one of the top 3 biggest) issue facing our great region. And then I do not feel so bad.

I was reading an article this morning that reminded me of when I lived in New York City. The year was 2005 and I was working for a big Texas law firm’s New York office. These were fun times. But I was living in midtown Manhattan on a big law firm associate salary. And I remember thinking that there was no way anyone who made less money than me could afford to live in Manhattan. I used to think, “Where do the school teachers live?”

Well, flash forward seventeen years and I reckon the folks at AISD are thinking the same thing. But they are trying to do something about it.

AISD has Plans to Build Affordable Housing


We all know Austin housing prices have been on a rapid ascent the last few years. This has made it difficult for anyone to afford to live here. AISD, therefore, apparently recognizes how difficult it is on its teachers. As a result, it has a plan to turn two of its properties into affordable housing for teachers.

Jeremy Stifler, AISD’S Director of Real Estate, told the Austin Monitor that having affordable housing can help AISD attract and retain quality teachers. AISD is not looking to just sell the land to the highest bidder but to be long-term partners and maintain ownership of the sites.

The first property is the Rosedale School up in northwest Austin. AISD has proposed four possible uses for this site:

  • 10 lots with 20 single family homes constructed on those lots;
  • 25 lots with 50 single family homes constructed on those lots;
  • 44 2-story townhomes and an 80 unit 4-story multifamily building; or
  • 30 2-story townhomes and a 140 unit 4-story multifamily building.

The second property is the Anita Ferrales Coy Facility in East Austin. AISD has proposed five possible uses for this site:

  • 57 unit, 4-story multifamily building; 86 unit, 5-story building; and 100 unit, 4-story building;
  • 57 unit, 4-story multifamily building; 86 unit, 5-story building; and 100 unit, 4-story building, and a 272 unit, 5-story building;
  • 308 unit, 5-story building, and a 272 unit 5-story building;
  • 32 single family homes, 63 2-story townhomes, a 78 unit 4-story building, and a 96 unit 5-story building; and
  • 56 2-story townhomes, 308 unit 5-story building, and a 272 unit 5-story building.

AISD is currently presenting these proposals through public meetings.

AISD Should Ignore Neighborhood Objections


Apparently at the meeting last week about the Rosedale School proposals, there was heavy objection from some of the local neighbors. The people there argued that while single-family homes would match the character of the neighborhood, an apartment complex would not. Another concern was that apartments would increase traffic in the area.

I don’t really know what it means to “match the character” of a neighborhood. And I do not want to prescribe any negative intent or connotation to it. So I will just say that, when done right, apartments are very nice and can add to the character of any neighborhood.

But that’s sort of beside the point. The bottom line is we need more housing in Austin. That’s how we are going to make it more affordable. And if AISD wants to help attract and retain better teachers, it should build as many housing units as it can fit. So I applaud AISD for its plans and hopes it builds as many units as it can on the properties it owns.

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vendor litigation - Commercial Real Estate Attorney | Bukowski Law Firm | Austin, TX

The Cost of Peace of Mind

  • Texas title insurance rates are set by the Texas Department of Insurance.
  • Necessary endorsements can add to the cost of that policy.
  • A good closer is one who understands that he or she needs to figure out a way around the hurdles in place and get the deal closed.

Its been a busy time here in Texas and, as a result, we have covered a lot of topical issues the last few weeks. And, as we lead up to the election in November, there is no doubt we will be covering a lot of local issues.

But for this week, we are going to wade back into some legal issues. Specifically, I want to talk a little about title insurance in Texas. While it is extremely important, unfortunately title insurance can be costly. But what is that cost? And how is it determined? That’s what I am writing about this week.

Texas Department of Insurance Sets Title Insurance Rates


One issue that we have in Texas – and that many commercial real estate investors notice when they are buying property – is that the cost of a title insurance policy is pretty high. I have written previously about how important title insurance policies are. Title insurance gives a property owner and lender peace of mind to know that, if there is an issue with your marketable title, the title insurance company is obligated to protect your rights.

But, as I wrote above, that peace of mind does not come cheap, unfortunately. Title insurance rates are set by the Texas Department of Insurance (“TDI”). It starts with the base rate. This is the basic cost of the initial title policy. And often endorsements are set up as a percentage of the base rate. The base rate determination is not a simple calculation. For purchases of properties over $100,000, the base rate is calculated as follows:

Policy Range Subtract Multiply by Add


$100,001 – $1,000,000 $100,000 0.00527 $832



$1,000,001 – $5,000,000


$1,000,000 0.00433 $5,575



$5,000,001 – $15,000,000


$5,000,000 0.00357 $22,895
$15,000,001 – $25,000,000


$15,000,000 0.00254 $58,595
$25,000,001 – $50,000,000


$25,000,000 0.00152 $83,995
$50,000,001 – $100,000,000 $50,000,000



0.00138 $121,995
Greater than $100,000,000 $100,000,000



0.00124 $190,995


So, for example, the base rate on a $4,826,600 policy would be calculated by first subtracting $1,000,000 to get to $3,826,600. Then that number is multiplied by 0.0043 to total $16,569.18. Finally, you add $5,575 to get to a total base rate equal to $22,144.

As you may know, in Texas the base rate for a policy is generally paid by the seller. That is just for the buyer’s title policy. Of course the buyer’s lender is going to want its own title insurance policy. But when the lender policy is issued at the same time as the buyer’s policy then the lender’s policy only costs $100 for a simultaneous issue.

Needed Endorsements are an Additional Cost


I’ve written previously in this blog that there are a number of endorsements that you will want to add to your title policy. These include but are not limited to:

  • Coverage for minerals, encroachments, and restrictions;
  • An access endorsement; and
  • A contiguity endorsement.

These endorsements will also increase the cost of a policy. Some of them are a flat fee and some can be set as a percentage of the base rate calculated above.

In addition to the increased costs that endorsements add, a few years ago, I wrote about a potential credit that is important to remember. If you are refinancing a property within the last seven years, you are entitled to a credit on the new loan policy. As a result, the base rate will be reduced by a percentage of the premium.

How to Find a Good Title Company


So as you can see, while necessary, title insurance can be expensive. And it is set by the TDI so there is no variance between issuers. When determining what title company to use, therefore, you want someone who understands how important it is to get a deal done. A good closer always understands that the parties want to close the deal and we all need to figure out how to get there. Nobody wants to have to walk away from a deal because the title company cannot close.

This is where I think Bukowski Law Firm shines as a title fee attorney. Because we are commercial real estate investors ourselves, we understand how important closing the deal is and work vigorously to figure out a way to make sure that happens.

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The Reason for the Season

  • I started a podcast to talk to Texas thought leaders about issues we face.
  • Recently, I have recorded two new episodes that provide fantastic opportunities to discuss those issues and opportunities.
  • I hope you will like the discussions we have as we all try to build a Greater Texas.

No this is not an early Christmas article. I would not do that to you. The season I refer to above is podcast season. This week, therefore, I am writing a little more about my new podcast. More specifically, why I wanted to start it and will continue doing it.

I recorded a couple of new episodes recently that I am really excited about. And when preparing for those episodes, it really got me thinking about why I am doing this at all. These guests, though, perfectly highlight why I want to do it and why I think its important. So that is what I am writing about this week.

Thinking with Texas Thought Leaders

As I wrote above, I recorded two new podcast episodes recently. The first one was with Hugh Forrest – the Chief Programming Officer at South by Southwest. I probably do not need to explain why I am excited about having Hugh on as a guest. There are few, if any, events that are more synonymous with Texas in general and Austin specifically than SXSW. Its grown from a small music festival to one of the biggest arts and thought events in the world. As a result, therefore, it plays a huge role in the future of our state.

And that’s why I started this podcast and why Hugh was so high on my list of folks to speak with. I named the podcast Greater Texas because I want to talk to Texas leaders about the growth Texas has faced and continues to face, the benefits that brings, and the challenges we face. Who is better to talk about those issues than one of the leaders of the biggest annual event in Texas?

SXSW has seen tremendous growth. And it’s a festival that we all can enjoy and be proud of. But like the city and state its located in, the growth presents significant challenges. And Hugh was kind enough to share his thoughts on the issues they face as well as how he thinks they will tackle them. It was the type of important discussion I want to continue to have with Texas thought leaders.

Identifying the Problem is Only Half the Issue

The second podcast I recorded recently was with Jack Craver. If you are not familiar, four times per week Jack puts out his Austin Politics Newsletter. Its an email about Austin City Hall’s daily business. And if you have any interest in what is happening in Austin, you should absolutely subscribe. Few people are more tied in to City Hall than Jack.

And being plugged into City Hall is a huge part of talking about the issues that we face. Because its great to have the conversations I have had with Phyllis Snodgrass and Cross Moceri and Hugh Forrest. In those, we really identified a lot of areas that need improvement. But how do we get those issues solved? That’s where politics – especially local politics – is going to play a huge role.

That’s where Jack comes in. He understands the issues we face in Central Texas and is so knowledgeable about City Hall that we had a great discussion about how we can fix these issues.

Becoming a Greater Texas

Again, these are exactly the types of discussions I have had so far on the podcast and want to continue to do so in the future. I started this podcast because I want to talk to Texas thought leaders about issues facing Texas and how we can fix them. It excites me to know that we can have these discussions and hopefully find a better way forward. And in the end, help build a Greater Texas.

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