Which First – The Good News or the Bad?

  • Last Thursday was an important Austin City Council meeting for commercial real estate owners.
  • The City Council passed two ordinances that will restrict the operations of residential landlords.
  • It also relaxed some height restrictions in the North Burnett area to allow for greater development.

Its not often I write recapping what happened at an Austin City Council meeting. I usually write about it before the meeting and let you know if there is something important that will be discussed. But then the Austin Monitor or Jack Craver are much, much better at recapping things once they have happened.

But the Austin City Council meeting on October 27 was pretty important for commercial real estate owners. So I am making an exception this time to highlight some of the actions the Council took that will impapct commercial property owners. Of course, you should still read the Monitor and/or Jack’s email. But I reckon my take will be a little different than their’s.

First the Bad – Could have been Worse, I Guess


The first issue I want to talk about is something I wrote about in this blog two weeks ago. And posted about on Linkedin last week. The City Council took up two proposed ordinances that directly affect Austin residential landlords.

The first is the proposed ordinance to make it a crime to retaliate against residents who engage in “organizing” activities with other residents. This is, of course, already outlawed by the Texas Property Code. But Austin decided the state law did not go far enough. And, as I wrote about two weeks ago – there are potentially a lot of pitfalls in this ordinance. Its likely to be very bad for landlords and almost impossible to comply with. But, in its wisdom, the City Council approved this proposal with a 9-1-1 vote.

The second proposed ordinance that the City Council approved was to make the required Notice of Proposed Eviction a permanent facet of Austin landlord/tenant law. Again, this is in direct contradiction of state law. The one good thing to come from this vote – the City Council trimmed the time from 21 days to 7. So now, before landlords can issue a notice to vacate, they must first issue a 7 day notice of proposed eviction.

Obviously neither of these are good for property owners. I do hope, therefore, that the state legislature will outlaw these types of changes to the state property code during the legislative session starting in January.

Now the Good – More Density Coming Up North


It was not all bad news for the commercial real estate industry, though. I have dedicated a lot of words in this blog to the need for increased density in Austin. But there are a lot of different rules and ordinances that limit that density. And probably none of them is more culpable than compatibility requirements – which severely limit how high developers can build. And give us major transportation corridors like Lamar and South First that are lined with only one and two story buildings.

Well there was at least some good news that came out of the City Council meeting on this front. The council approved a change to the North Burnett/Gateway Zone that will allow developers to increase the height of the buildings they can develop. The limit in the area was 308 feet – meaning buildings could not go above that height. With what the Council approved on Thursday, developers will now be able to build up to 420 feet.

This is, obviously, great news for the North Burnett area. And for Austin as a whole. But we need much, much more relaxing of similar height restrictions all around the city. Which is why its so important to make sure we get City Council members who understand the need for development and density. So if you have not already done it, please get out and vote. Because the future of our great City depends on it.

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