Save Our City Austin | Neighborhoods
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SOCA is the sponsor of A Community, Not a Commodity, a diverse group of grassroots community leaders from across Austin who want the new CodeNEXT to reflect the wishes of your communities and not the latest planning theories of city staff or the financial interests of developers. We want a Code that protects our environment, safeguards our watersheds, and maintains and adds open space and parkland for all our communities. Go here to read more.


Questions for Household Affordability Code Prescription


  1. How much residential capacity will proposed code changes add to activity corridors and centers? Please provide the following by activity corridor and center:


  • an estimate of the maximum total additional residential square footage that could be created under the aggregate of proposed changes to entitlements;
  • an estimated numerical breakdown of additional dwelling units that could be achieved with this square footage;
  • total acreage and proposed maximum number of units/acre as well as current maximum number of units/acre; and
  • estimated number of additional residents that can be housed by additional square footage.


  1. How many residents are projected to live within the city limits and within the ETJ by 20___? What is the housing gap between that number and current number of housing units? Is there an estimated population past which Austin will be unsustainable?


  1. Has the City studied the affordability impact on neighborhoods adjacent to areas of large-scale development entitlement increases, such as the TODs, UNO, the downtown core, Rainey Street and the East Riverside Corridor? Has it studied the affordability impact in planning areas that have adopted infill tools such as Urban Home, Cottage Lot and Small Lot Amnesty? How have increased development entitlements impacted the assessed and market value of upzoned property and that of nearby property? Following the upzonings in these centers and along these corridors, how many requests has the City received for changes of entitlement to SF-zoned parcels within ¼-mile to increase density and/or permit commercial use? Has the level of demolition and displacement in these areas accelerated, decelerated or remained steady?


Please quantify how increased development entitlements in these centers and along these corridors has resulted in a net affordability gain for the city and for the neighborhoods that comprise or are adjacent to their respective planning boundaries.


  1. Has any city that converted from Euclidean to form-based code studied the impact of the change on affordability? If so, please describe the methodology and the results. Has any city tested form-based code in one area before adopting it on a city-wide basis?


  1. What is the net increase in owner-occupied and rental housing units within the city and ETJ between 2010 and 2015?


  1. The prescription asserts that household affordability in Austin is challenged by demand that exceeds the supply for attainably priced housing, higher property taxes, increased utility and transportation costs and the gap between growth in wages and the increase in housing prices. P9 notes that “In the past five years, median home prices in the city have gone up nearly 50% while the median household income has increased 2.5%.” To what degree does the City estimate that the proposed code changes will close the 20-fold gap between the change in median home price and the change in median household income? By how much will the proposed code changes lower the median home price in Austin? What is the projected increase in median home price and median household income if the land development code remains as it is?


  1. What percentage of Austin’s jobs require secondary education or less and what is the average wage of those jobs? What is the real estate community’s commitment to lobbying for increased wages to significantly close the gap between median household income and the median housing price for Austin’s workforce?


  1. What is the gap between growth of job requiring a bachelor’s degree and new residents moving to Austin with a bachelor’s degree? To what degree does this gap contribute to Austin’s household affordability challenge?


  1. Has any study or survey documented the reasons why Austin is losing families with children? Beyond affordability challenges, what other factors influenced selection of a home outside of Austin? School quality? Yards? Safe streets/manageable traffic?


  1. The prescription notes that larger buildings have been “deemed acceptable in and around” Activity Corridors and Centers [PP 13, 16, 18-19…] and target these areas for relaxed development standards by right as well as for new density bonus programs. Who deemed them acceptable for “larger buildings” and via what public process? What is meant by “larger buildings”? What is meant by “in and around” Activity Corridors and Centers? Does that language mean that the boundaries of Activity Corridors and Centers are undetermined and/or fluid? [This vague language validates citizen concerns raised during Imagine Austin that corridors and centers would “bleed” into the single-family areas of neighborhoods.] Please describe how the new code will ensure that corridor and center entitlements are compatible with adjacent single-family and remain confined within defined boundaries.


  1. Via the re-write, the new code appears poised to convey a “by right” increase in development entitlements via relaxed setbacks, reduced parking requirements, reduced minimum lot size, relaxed compatibility standards, renegotiated Residential Parking Programs, deletion of minimum site area requirements and maximum density limits per acre. These changes are asserted without substantiation to contribute to an unquantified level of greater affordability throughout the city. Developers are to receive additional latitude in the name of affordability with no mandate to exploit those entitlements to a substantial increase in affordability. Residents and neighborhoods expected to cede quality of life protections and neighborhood plan integrity upfront for the cause of affordability by accepting relaxed development standards but developers are not held to any baseline affordability benchmarks. How does giving away significant development entitlements “by right” via our code re-write constitute a responsible use of City zoning power to achieve deep, long-term and diverse affordable housing options? If developers are part of this community, why are they not expected to cede anything upfront in the code re-write to help Austin achieve affordability?


  1. The prescription contemplates new/revised density bonus programs. How will those programs ensure that significant numbers of deeply affordable rental housing units are produced within the current CBD boundaries, integrated into mixed income, mixed use development?


  1. On-site affordable housing in the CBD would unquestionably increase fair housing choice in the most expensive housing market and job-rich area of the city If developers are allowed to continue to “opt out” (by right and via density bonus programs), why are neighborhoods expected to “opt in” to certain policies and programs that have no documented positive impact on affordability?


  1. To what degree is our affordability crisis fueled by expectations regarding return-on-investment for the development community? What is the median, average and highest ROI for CBD and transit corridor projects for each year between 2005 and 2015? Please provide a table with the following information: name and location of all for sale and rental multifamily and mixed use projects w/ a residential component constructed between 2005 and 2015; zoning for each site; number of residential units provided; land and construction cost per unit for each project; net operating income (NOI) for each project for every year in operation; assessed and market value of each project in 2015; anticipated ROI over life of the project.


  1. What is the 5- and 10-year forecast for lending requirements that RECA’s white paper claims impacted developers’ recent choice to focus on high-end market housing as opposed to missing middle or mixed income housing?


  1. How does the proposed transect zoning matrix and associated map ensure that all types of housing of all density and affordability levels are permitted and equitably incentivized in all Austin neighborhoods—suburban to urban core (CBD), including those districts that have the lowest number of affordable housing options?


  1. The code re-write pledges to preserve existing neighborhood character. Suburban neighborhood character is established and sustained by deed restrictions, ____ and PUD rules. How is central city neighborhood character established and sustained? Platting history? Neighborhood plans? Historic zoning? NCCDs? Is all neighborhood character—from suburban to urban single-family neighborhoods—equally worthy of preservation? Will equitable market rate and affordable housing goals be set for all areas of town, and how will our code manifest a substantive intention to achieve that equitable geographic dispersion?


  1. How does the proposed code incentivize preservation of existing affordable housing if it conveys greater density by right on those parcels? Doesn’t that incentivize demolition and new construction that may result in more units, all of which are less affordable than the ones that were demolished?


  1. How will the Future Land Use Map for existing neighborhood plans factor into the code re-write? Will the FLUMs be modified with adoption of the new code? Will neighborhoods have the opportunity to propose changes to the FLUM concurrent with adoption of the new code?


  1. How will administrative review process for development allow for a meaningful public voice?


  1. What requirements for neighborhood traffic studies and traffic impact analyses will be required under the new code?


  1. Safe, walkable, affordable neighborhoods are the goal city-wide. How will the new code ensure that relaxed development standards manifest in meaningful increases in affordability without compromising safety on public streets? [Streets lined with cars may slow down traffic but they also interfere with line of sight at intersections and make streets without sidewalks dangerous for pedestrians to navigate.]