Central Austin Affordability

I encourage everyone to check out the article on Central Austin Affordability in this month’s Community Impact, it was very enlightening. I think our neighborhood offers many options across the affordability spectrum and although the options are diminishing at the lower end there are tangible things we can do to improve options.

However, I was bothered by the non-solution offered by one neighborhood representative. ““[Dense housing] will still be unaffordable for moderate- or low-income people,” Jack said. “You can’t build an affordable home in the Zilker Neighborhood … not until we have the next economic downturn.”

On the subsidy side - a housing bond is likely approaching that we can support. On the market side more housing types that can accommodate a range of incomes as well as accommodating more renters and expanded use of ADU’s which allow modest density while ensuring neighborhood “character” are all great ways to build for affordability without having to rely on a market downtown to ensure affordability in Zilker and Central Austin.

For anyone interested, you can read the article here: https://communityimpact.com/austin/central-austin/development-construction/2018/03/27/central-austin-homes-unaffordable-for-areas-middle-class/

I agree with Rob - its pretty crazy to say that its impossible to build affordable housing in our neighborhood. I think its more accurate to say that affordable housing (aka “Missing Middle”) options are currently hard to build here.

If we allowed small lot development or greater housing density, it is likely the per unit cost would decrease to more affordable levels. Unfortunately, many parts of Zilker only allow for single family housing, which precludes building duplexes, triplexes, smaller apartment complexes, etc. I’d love to see that change since we are a growing city and that growth means we need more housing of all kinds!

I was amazed at the small apartment buildings mixed in with single family homes in the Clarksville/Enfield area. Why is that a bad thing for neighborhood character?

Its absolutely what helps make Clarksville so desirable. Even Zilker has many small apartment complexes but they would never, ever be allowed under current regulations. Not to mention the in-neighborhood stores.

Developers have no problem making money in this town. Only a developer would think subsidizing developers is a solution to the affordability issue. Subsidizing developers is a terrible idea. It’s corporate welfare. Socialism for the rich.

Should City Council approve, in November Austinites will vote on an $851 million bond package—a 30-year loan paid off by tax dollars—to fund city projects. The current recommendation has $161 million earmarked for affordable housing initiatives, the largest such bond allocation in city history, according City Council members.

Of course the easy answer for spendthrift bureaucrats is to shackle the next few generations with debt. Then these bureaucrats can continue their mismanagement unabated. This is always their answer. I won’t vote for ANY bond these people float. They are incompetent to manage the growth this city has experienced and will continue to have. That’s why our skyrocketing taxes are never enough. And subsidizing developers won’t fix incompetence.

There remains in Austin govt a small town mentality in defiance of reality. That’s why CodeNEXT is a disaster. They encouraged the growth but they don’t know how to handle the success of their efforts to do so.

Adler had a interesting idea when he suggested development corridors to pacify neighborhood preservationists. I don’t know if it would work but it has a much better chance than throwing taxpayer money at developers.

Locally, South Lamar hi-rise development should be encouraged. A monorail line down South Lamar should be considered. Developers should be required to reserve 25% of their hi-rise developments to residents making 50% or less of the median income. And they need to put in sidewalks everywhere and incentivize a couple major grocers to address the food desert issue. These are quality of life issues.

If these bureaucrats don’t stop restricting density, the sprawl will just intensify. The traffic will get worse. The tax base will escape to the burbs. Those who are left will need to make up the difference, so they will need to be wealthier and wealthier. Ultimately, they’ll all be from California. There won’t be any Austin character left. The COA needs to stop acting like Austin is Mayberry. Bring in the big boy developers to build the corridors up, up, up! Incentivize them with tax abatements and a streamlined permitting bureaucracy. Create a real big city development corridor.

I completely agree. The technical term for it is inclusionary zoning, but sadly, Texas is one of only three states that prohibits it at the state level. It prohibits any mandatory inclusions of affordable housing, even minuscule ones (e.g. 2.5% of a development instead of 25%).

While I certainly won’t disagree regarding City Hall’s general incompetence, your assumption that an affordable housing bond would somehow end up “subsidizing developers” is as fictional as Community Not Commodity’s claim that “developers” are the ones orchestrating CodeNEXT solely so they can “get rich.” In both cases the basic argument that developers prefer building low-income units at around $150 sq ft versus luxury housing that’ll sell for 4x-5x doesn’t pass the smell test. (And btw the city may be earmarking funds for it, but if I recall correctly 1) they have to be matched by an equal allocation of federal funds in order to be issued, and 2) affordable housing falls under HUD’s purview, not the city’s (or state’s), and they’d be the ones overseeing its development.)

Of course you had to go there. Sigh. Just to clarify: giving corporate welfare to “developers” is evil, but giving it to H-E-B – a $20 billion entity that’s one of the largest privately held corporations in America – is okay? This is the type of bizarro logic that I’m used to seeing from our bleached-blond-in-chief.