Jack Craver, freelance journalist and creator of the Austin Politics newsletter, joins the Greater Texas pod this week to dish the dirt on housing, transportation, parking, and many of the other issues currently coming to a head in the city of Austin. Analyzing the playing field of current politicians and upcoming elections, Jack explains the inner workings of some of Austin’s most difficult policies. How can we solve the Austin housing crisis? Jack hopes his ideas might provide us with an answer.
- [00:00] Freelance journalism & finding a path to writing success in Austin
- [04:55] Creating the Austin Politics Newsletter & explaining public policy
- [10:15] Housing density & diversity issues in Austin’s major corridors
- [20:51] Parking requirements & the lack of mixed use housing
- [29:47] Transportation issues & the debate of Austin’s I-35 expansion
How did you get started with writing the Austin Politics newsletter?
Public policy and the ins and outs of city council are complicated, but Jack Craver aims to make even the most policy-heavy, regulation-filled moments of Austin politics accessible and understandable for all of us. Starting his journalism journey in Madison, Wisconsin, Jack ended up in Austin after his wife’s job brought his family to Texas and began freelancing with a political focus in mind. Originally a blog, the Austin Politics Newsletter has grown into a successful email newsletter delivered right to subscribers’ inboxes every weekday.
“I spend a lot of time watching city council meetings, city commissions, interviewing people, looking through city documents, and then, trying to come up with an interesting angle on what I find. My mission is to get in the weeds of public policy, but to make it accessible to normies.”
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Austin in the housing area?
Diversity and demand play major parts in the war over accessible, affordable housing in Austin. Although Jack believes council members and city politicians believe the issue of affordable housing isn’t going away on its own, he feels frustrated that many outdated policies are still being held up for Austin housing development. We need to build faster, cheaper, and bigger housing units, but many restrictions limit builders and developers from even scratching the surface of what Austin families need in order to live here.
“We don’t have enough housing, and we don’t have enough diversity in housing. We need a lot more supply, we need a lot more options, and then, we also need to just make it cheaper to build whatever kind of housing is legal.”
Are there other things that could change that could help our housing problems?
Many issues plague the Austin housing situation, but some are especially uselessly difficult and restrictive, such as Austin’s strict parking requirements. Not only do these requirements (along with many others) make very little sense in our city, it also drives up housing costs and building costs as well. Eliminating barriers to building housing, especially multi-family housing, is one of the most impactful things we could do to create affordable city housing in Austin.
“We should eliminate parking requirements. There’s no justification for parking requirements ever. They never make sense. It’s frustrating explaining this to people. Parking is not going away. I’m just saying, there’s no reason the government should ever mandate parking ever.”
What are your thoughts on transportation issues in the city of Austin?
Jack doesn’t have many opinions on the specific initiatives to expand highways like I-35— except for the understandable belief that these solutions won’t work long-term. Austin’s lack of public transportation harms all of us, from negative impact on the environment to unrealistic pricing raising on the cost of living in Austin. Jack explains that if public transportation isn’t prioritized, we’ll continue to suffer the expensive consequences of car-centric living.
“I’m just really focused on trying to undo what I see is the error of the car-centric planning that has prevailed since World War II. I think Austin should draw inspiration from Hyde Park and Clarksville and our old neighborhoods.”
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