Affordable housing advocates say Austin city officials are ignoring part of a 5-year-old law that should require developers to provide much more affordable housing than they must now for big projects that get special development bonuses from the city.
City staffers say that part of the law, as written, doesn’t reflect their recollection of the law’s intent, so they have interpreted it in a different way.
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What the law says
A 2008 law requires developers of large projects — called “planned unit developments” or PUDs — to include some affordable housing or pay affordable housing fees if they build taller buildings than city rules normally allow.
The law says: “If rental housing units are included in a PUD, at least 10 percent of the rental units or rental habitable square footage … must be affordable.”
For owner-occupied units like condos, that percentage is 5 percent.
Developers can instead pay fees “for each square foot of climate-controlled space within the PUD” so that the city can build affordable housing elsewhere. The fee is $6 per square foot.
Broadstone project (approved but not yet built)
• Six-story structure with as many as 240 apartments and some ground-floor retail. Total developed space planned: 165,000 square feet. “Bonus” square footage allowed, to build a tall structure: 32,000 square feet
• City’s interpretation: developer must include 3,200 square feet of affordable housing, or pay $19,200 in affordable housing fees
• Housing advocates’ interpretation: developer must include 16,500 square feet of affordable housing or pay $990,000 in affordable housing fees
211 South Lamar project (proposed)
- 96-foot tall structure with 175 apartments and some ground-floor retail; total developed space planned: 200,000. “Bonus” square footage allowed, to build a tall structure: 70,000
• City’s interpretation: developer must include 7,000 square feet of affordable housing or pay $42,000 in affordable housing fees
• Housing advocates’ interpretation: developer must include 20,000 square feet of affordable apartments or pay $1.2 million in affordable housing fees
Sources: city of Austin, Steve Drenner