Friends of Austin Neighborhoods statement on HOMES

my memory of the imagine austin plan is that it was intended to create nodes of density connected by public transit. this would also allow for “all types of housing across all of austin” but without creating so much turmoil in established areas that are defined by an existing character. the space between the nodes would essentially remain but with more density on the main corridors and the most density at the nodes. i know you’re thinking that brodie oaks would be a great node, and i agree, but it is in a spot that should require maximum consideration for the surrounding environment.

i know i’m sounding repetitive but it would be reassuring to hear the FAN guy mention anything about the environment other than that building more homes in the core will stop sprawl. i don’t believe that is true. we can’t externalize environmental stewardship, it needs to be included on every block and especially in the recharge zone.


My testimony that I gave at council, since I don’t just rant online, addresses the environment.

My name is Isaac Cohen.

I am a homeowner in District 9 and a Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association board member.

I speak for myself today.

I am here to offer counterpoints to opponents of HOME.

The tree canopy in your backyard is nothing compared to the thousands of acres of ranchland being turned into subdivisions.

It is not offsetting the carbon monoxide in the air from millions of extra related driven miles and required infrastructure for the unnecessary suburbs.

70% of our water consumption in the city is for lawns.

Lawns aren’t great if you care about water.

Our sewer plants operate at 55% capacity, with a 78 million-dollar upgrade underway.

There are sewer pipes bigger than the ones downtown running all through the city.

Highly dense cities can support highly efficient public transit.

Efficient public transit reduces the cost of living and allows people to remain mobile as they age.

Home prices and taxes have risen through 40 years of continuously tightening land use regulations in single-family areas.

Meanwhile, rents have decreased in the last three years due to the record-breaking construction of new rental units.

This is despite higher occupancy rates and increasing population.

The proof is in the numbers if you take an honest look.

It is also unclear what the opposition is even to.

I often hear how people bought a small, affordable house in a neighborhood years ago and bemoan that evil developers don’t build those anymore.

That’s what we are trying to return to.

I hear about HOME being a handout for developers.

Did the opponents of HOME build their houses themselves, or did developers not only build those homes but also write the highly cherished, often racist, restrictive covenants?

If homes are needed, and somebody is going to build them, who else but a developer?

I hear about how upset people are at staffing levels at our emergency services and schools and how we should have housing for them.

I also read about how the Allendale Neighborhood Association rejected density at the site of the Rosedale school because of the traffic, as if the Rosedale school didn’t have traffic.

I hear about how smaller houses are never built anymore.

I also hear about how the ZNA and Bryker Woods Neighborhood Association are ready to die on the hill of minimum lot sizes to prevent affordable housing and sue the city if needed.

Our city code made your affordable 1930 bungalow impossible to build at a price the market will bear at the direction of the ANC.

It made the old multiplexes that line the streets of most of central Austin illegal.

This is why they must be replaced with single homes as they fall into disrepair.

These were not the unintended consequences we are constantly warned about; this was as intentional as it gets.

You chose this for us.

We are trying to undo the damage.

I hear a lot of big feelings.

I’ve heard very few rational concerns that don’t involve mental gymnastics.

According to the 2020 census, homeowners over 65 represent 10% of Austin households.

Eighty-six percent of households are renters under 65.

The minority actively excludes the majority from the security of ownership they value.

I am tired of seeing the whole city held hostage by the privileged few.

We have seen the outcome of 40 years of obstructionism by SOS, ANC, and CNC.

Chances are, even the owners over 65 would benefit from a more liveable city with more housing diversity and better public transit.

Let’s try something different and legalize housing.

It’d be a lot cooler if we did!

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Very well said, thank you.

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there are homes in the urban core that cost less than a half million dollars but they are going to be condos at this point. i’m all for building condo complexes along major corridors. i disagree that someone with a half million dollars looking at 600sqft condos in central austin is the same person looking at 3000sqft homes in the burbs. people who want more space but who can’t afford it in the urban core will always go farther out to find it. HOME does not cater to those people. i agree that watered lawns are a waste of water but that open space does play a vital role in absorbing water that eventually becomes the springs and creeks that austin is known for. water penetrating the land is important everywhere. i want to know how this is being taken into account within the proposed framework that is HOME.

Impervious cover does not change under HOME. Your footprint is your footprint as it is now. If you can build more units on that foot print great. Simple as that.

I don’t think it takes a leap to see that if people have to live in Kyle - because it’s where they can afford to live - but their job is in Austin, how that is not good for the environment. The more we can create housing closer to where the jobs are and/or introduce clean transit that people can take - the better it is for the environment.

The closer services are to your house. The more walkable your neighborhood is. All of this contributes. It’s not a silver bullet strategy. It’s a multi front attack. This is just one.

it is my understanding that all those supporting codes would be revisited in phase 2 or 3 of HOME. setbacks, impervious cover, far, etc. the math on a 2,500 sq ft lot with existing supporting codes would mean an 1125sqft footprint to squeeze three homes onto. my tenant moved to buda and bought a house but they went from a 3/1.5 1100sqft space to a 3000sqft 4/3.5 home. they simply wanted more space, not less. how does HOME serve them given they can’t afford a 3k sqft home in zilker not do they want to live in a 1125sqft home on the 3rd floor of a condo building on a 2500sqft lot.

You’re right, I guess if your tenant wanted more space let’s do nothing.

The entire point is to start somewhere. This is supposed to be the least controversial move. Sure maybe we will examine impervious cover and set backs down the road. Maybe nothing will happen with those. Maybe it will. That doesn’t have anything to do with this. And this - especially the tiny homes, ADU provisions - has the real possibility of opening up a more affordable rental situation for many who work locally in the service industry or otherwise.

Not even sure what you’re arguing for or against.

I found this information online about average home sizes over the last century. Just thought it was interesting and may be useful in forming opinions on desirable (or livable) home sizes if history is any indication of what makes a single family home. Who remembers Bailey Park from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

It’s from a 2017 report

“ First, they found that the average size of the American home - not just new homes, but all homes - has remained remarkably constant over the past 120 years. [not sure I see the variation as a constant]. Between 1890 and 1919, the average detached single-family home was 2,232 square feet in size. In the 1920s, that number went down to 2,046 square feet.

In the Great Depression of the 1930s, the number dropped further down to 1,944 square feet, and then dropped again in the 1940s to 1,669, thanks to the construction of numerous modest suburban homes. And then the average size of the American home gradually increased, from 1,773 square feet in the 1950s to 2,673 in the 2000s.”

Planning commission just wrapped up for the day at 1 am.

The answer is that for a 2 unit development, FAR is capped at .55 FAR with a maximum of .4 for a single unit.

In English, this translates that for a normal 6k lot you get 3300 square feet to split between units with a maximum size of 2400 for a single unit.

They also got rid from of all the bullshit the bullshit exceptions for attics and dormers which created dumb shaped 3rd story spaces with uneven roofs.

They also are doing away with the bullshit rules around parking and garages. If it will just be part of FAR now with 200 square feet granted per unit.

Practically, to answer your specific question, you are likely to get best market rate (as a profiteering developer) with 2 normal houses of approximately equal size, which would be roughly 1600 square feet each give or take.

A standalone 1600 square foot home is neither an 1100 square foot condo or ADU (the current max), nor is it a 3000 square foot McMansion. It is in fact what is referred to as middle housing which sits in the 1500 to 2000 square foot range.

With a slightly larger lot of 7000 square feet, it would you could build 3 of three in any configuration.

And finally, in the absence of tent rules (current phase) and with looser setbacks (phase 2) you would be able to have the placement options on the lot to keep those trees we all love so much.

What was definitely not discussed in the almost 7 hour meeting was a 3 story condo building on a 2500 square foot lot. And I know you claim to be the common man who is uninformed, but consider yourself informed. Literally nobody, whose opinion will impact the outcome, is talking about that situation.

Today, on a 6000 square foot lot, you are limited to 2700 square feet max, are penalized for garages that don’t add impervious cover for your 3 required parking spots, and have your placement very limited. That is the reason why nobody builds them.

If you feel so inclined; the meeting will continue tomorrow at 5:30 and you can tune in for what I expect to be a long discussion about the bonuses granted for presenting an existing structure, and particularly preserving an existing structure that is very old when you actual retain 100% of the street facing side and a very large percentage of the structure.

Very true.

By giving up some of that penetration in the 4 miles closest to downtown that has an existing road grid, sidewalks, and infrastructure, and adding density, think of all the houses in the surrounding 30 miles that wont be built, and the roads in front of them that won’t exist, and the sewer that won’t need to be buried. All of those areas upstream from us can just absorb their rain instead of further burdening the local storm sewer and lake infrastructure. Infrastructure that ALL leads to the highland lakes which Town Lake is a part of. Literally thousands of hectares of water absorbing dirt can be reserved by sacrificing a little at the core as close to the biggest collection point in the region for above grade water. Additionally, do to the higher elevations in the surrounding areas, the water has a greater chance to feed higher water table aquifers than us at a much lower point in the local geography. Since it is important “everywhere “ as you say, it seems like a worthy sacrifice for the utilitarian math that supports the argument. Particularly, when this area around downtown is of uniquely low value with regards to charging the all so important aquifers.