A Great Idea from the Austin Planning Commission

  • The Austin Planning Commission put forth two proposals that could help affordability in Austin.
  • Both compatibility waivers and the proposed town zoning category were approved by the Planning Commission.
  • Its not clear when the City Council will take up these issues.

Guess what we are going to talk about again this week? It’s the biggest issue in Central Texas. And no, surprisingly its not why Austin FC has struggled so much this season. Though I would LOVE to find out the reasons for that from some soccer experts.

But if its Central Texas, then we must be talking about housing. As we have discussed many times, its probably the single biggest issue facing us as we continue to grow. And this week brought some hope – some optimism. And its at least partly because of an old friend of the firm – Greg Anderson.

So what did Greg do this week? That’s what we talk about below.

Austin Planning Commission Recommends New Zoning Standard

Last week, the Planning Commission approved two proposals that were put forward by Greg Anderson.* The first is a proposal to allow the Commission to waive compatibility setbacks. We have talked a lot about the harm that compatibility requirements have caused in hindering more dense, urban centers and preventing more housing. If this measure is approved by the City Council, then the Planning Commission will be allowed to waive some of those requirements to encourage more development.

The second proposal was to create a new zoning category called Town Zoning. The intent of the proposed new zoning is to allow more housing to be built across the city by encouraging mixed-use developments that are centered around a pedestrian-friendly town center. These developments would be designed to be walkable, bike-friendly, and transit-oriented, allowing residents to easily access shops, restaurants, and public transportation without relying on cars. The proposal also calls for a mix of housing types, including apartments, townhouses, and single-family homes, to create a diverse and affordable community.

Under Town Zoning, the base entitlements would be similar to what is currently offered under Commercial Services zoning. But Town Zoning would allow any residential use in the area. And would require a smaller setback than Commercial Zoning.

There likely will be an affordability requirement to get extra housing units approved. The developer would be required to make those units at 60 percent of the median family income.

These Planning Commission Suggestions Will Help Affordability

Its no secret that housing is issue one, two, and three in Austin. And these new proposals are exciting because they can potentially help that process along.

By allowing developers to build more dense projects with more units in a (hopefully) streamlined fashion, Town Zoning will help increase the number of units the city has. And by requiring developers to include affordable housing units in their developments, the city can ensure that low-income residents have access to safe and affordable housing in desirable areas of the city. This can help prevent displacement and ensure that Austin remains an inclusive and diverse community.

Town Zoning could also help reduce sprawl and promote denser development within the city. By creating walkable communities that are well-connected to public transportation, the city can reduce its dependence on cars and encourage more sustainable modes of transportation. This can also help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, making the city a more livable place for all residents.

Overall, the proposal for town zoning is an exciting development for the City of Austin. By promoting denser, more sustainable, and more affordable development, this new zoning category has the potential to make Austin a better place to live for all residents. While there are still many details to be worked out, and its not clear how long the overall process will take, the proposal represents a step forward in the city’s ongoing efforts to create a more livable, equitable, and sustainable future.

*Please subscribe to Jack Craver’s Austin Politics Newsletter. Its fantastic for keeping abreast of local news and developments.

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