Austin City Council to study demolitions’ effect on affordable housing


Highlights

A pair of resolutions could lead to increased fees for demolition permits.

One proposal might put increased fees for demolition permits into the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

Another resolution would involve checking for asbestos and lead in residences slated for demolition.

The Austin City Council approved a pair of resolutions Thursday evening aimed at addressing a recent audit that found housing demolitions in Austin are on the rise and are happening with little safety oversight.

Council Member Kathie Tovo brought both resolutions to the council. Tovo has called for tamping down on demolitions, which have been occurring more often in her Central Austin district than in all other districts. Between 2008 and 2016, her Central Austin District 9 saw 1,177 demolition permits approved.

Both resolutions could lead to increased fees for demolition permits.

One of the resolutions called for the city to look at increasing permit fees for demolitions if city staffers find a connection between demolished buildings and the loss of affordable housing. That money would be put in the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which is largely dedicated to creating and funding affordable housing.

“I am quite certain we will be able to demonstrate a correlation,” Tovo told the American-Statesman on Friday. “The challenge will be measuring what that impact is and … figuring out what the system is for creating an evidence-based mitigation fee.”

The other resolution calls for the city’s staff to calculate fee increases if tests are needed to check for asbestos and lead in residences slated for demolition. No mitigation for asbestos, lead and other toxic chemicals are currently required under city code for residential demolitions.

Zilker neighborhood resident David King, a fixture at City Council meetings, said that demolitions are happening everywhere in his neighborhood. Older homes being replaced with larger or more modern structures worth significantly more than the buildings that were originally there.

“It is happening, and it is happening rapidly,” King said.

PERSONAL STORY: Saying goodbye to my childhood home in fast-changing Bouldin

The city’s staff will have until April 1 to offer recommendations on how to conduct a study examining the potential connection between demolitions and lost affordable housing.

Tovo signaled these resolutions were the first among more she might bring up next year to further examine demolitions.

The council approved the resolution on permit fees by a vote of 8-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair against and Council Members Alison Alter and Delia Garza off the dais. That approval happened at 1:08 a.m. Friday. It was the last item facing the council.

The other resolution had passed 10-1, with Garza voting against.



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