Austin City Council signs off on new housing ‘blueprint’


The Austin City Council approved its strategic housing plan Thursday evening, signing off on a document that calls for building an additional 135,000 housing units in the city by 2025.

The 38-page plan — now called the “Strategic Housing Blueprint” — offers more than 50 suggestions to help combat Austin’s housing crunch, including calls to revamp the city’s permitting process and purchasing unused land to preserve it for affordable housing projects.

“I am not ready to admit defeat to gentrification,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

Austin’s need for housing is fueled by the region’s booming population. Travis County, which contains most of Austin, is expected to add about half a million people by 2050 — growing from about 1.1 million in 2013 to nearly 1.6 million by 2050.

The housing shortage has driven up costs, with average rents hitting $1,227 in June.

The plan approved Thursday calls for building more than 13,000 new housing units a year, with the goal of adding 135,000 units to the city in the next decade. Almost half of those units — an estimated 60,000 — will need to be targeted at families making less than 80 percent of Austin’s median wage, about $62,000 a year for a family of four in 2016.

The council unanimously voted to back the first half of the document, which largely lays out the scope of Austin’s housing shortage.

However, Council Member Ellen Troxclair, who represents Southwest Austin’s District 8, voted against the second half of the document, which includes policy recommendations she said she couldn’t support, including calling on the Legislature to allow Austin to implement rent control.

While no council members challenged the idea that Austin needs more housing, where the housing should go proved to be a significant flashpoint for the second straight week.

The “blueprint” calls for building 75 percent of the new housing along or near major transportation corridors, or placed in major city centers, such as the Domain or downtown. That has raised the hackles of politically powerful preservation groups who fear that concentrating housing in the areas surrounding the transportation corridors would eat into old Central Austin neighborhoods.

Supporters say it will help limit sprawl and boost mass transit ridership. Opponents say it will fuel gentrification.

“We have nothing in place to protect the people who are already here,” said Council Member Ora Houston, whose District 1 includes Northeast Austin and parts of East Austin. “The people who live there don’t have the capital, they don’t have the financing — I’m not sure we understand all the nuisances when it comes to making Austin a compact and connected community.”

Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria, a supporter of the plan, countered.

“There has been no plans for Austin, especially East Austin and the inner core,” said Renteria, whose District 3 includes much of East Austin and parts of Southeast Austin. “If we don’t do anything, in my neighborhood, they’re already saying ‘hey, I can’t afford this.’”

The document also calls for establishing a goal for 10 percent of all apartments in each City Council district to be affordable for families making just 30 percent of Austin’s median income, $24,300 a year for a family of four in 2016.

The 50 recommendations brought by city staff also included calls to:

• Develop a “strike fund” that would aim to buy and preserve up to 20,000 affordable units over 20 years.

• Purchase and “bank” undeveloped and underdeveloped land along or near major transportation corridors for the future development of affordable housing by private or nonprofit developers.

• Create a consistent program that allows developers to add height to buildings in certain neighborhoods in exchange for providing affordable housing, effectively unifying the city’s current patchwork of neighborhood “density bonus” programs.

• Streamline the city’s permitting process and expand its affordability programs to speed development, increase the number of affordable units built and extend the amount of time such housing units remain set aside for lower-income families.

Council members also adopted two resolutions that called for the city’s staff to develop plans to help protect existing affordable housing in the corridors and centers.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Why is Trump surprised Jeff Sessions recused himself from Russia investigation?
Why is Trump surprised Jeff Sessions recused himself from Russia investigation?

Four months after the fact, President Donald Trump is still frustrated that his political ally and attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that is haunting the president.   "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before...
Trump has now attacked basically everyone who is in charge of the Russia investigation
Trump has now attacked basically everyone who is in charge of the Russia investigation

President Donald Trump has declared the Russia investigation to be a "witch hunt" and a "hoax," but he sure seems to be concerned about all the people who are leading it.   Trump in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday made crystal-clear his previously reported distaste for Attorney General Jeff Sessions'...
6 months of President Trump, in 7 issues
6 months of President Trump, in 7 issues

On Thursday, President Trump will have been in office for 181 days, a.k.a. 4,344 hours, a.k.a. 260,640 minutes, a.k.a. six months.   My first reaction is: "Only six months?" Perhaps it's because so much has happened in those six months. And perhaps it feels like time has slowed down because, paradoxically, Trump has not overseen...
Big German bank, a key to Trump’s finances, faces new scrutiny
Big German bank, a key to Trump’s finances, faces new scrutiny

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump pointed to his relationship with Deutsche Bank to counter reports that big banks were skeptical of doing business with him.   After a string of bankruptcies in his casino and hotel businesses in the 1990s, Trump became somewhat of an outsider on Wall Street, leaving the giant German bank among...
Manafort was in debt to pro-Russia interests, Cyprus records show
Manafort was in debt to pro-Russia interests, Cyprus records show

Financial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald Trump's presidential campaign in March 2016.  ...
More Stories