CodeNEXT debate heats up as Austin council members form caucus in support of neighborhood preservation

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As Austin City Council debates the details of the city’s ongoing land development code rewrite, four council members publicly aligned their priorities Tuesday to stress the need to preserve Austin’s existing neighborhoods.

Backed by several community members, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and council members Leslie Pool, Ora Houston and Alison Alter said at a press conference Tuesday morning that they were giving a voice to the larger community; a voice that says upzoning Austin’s neighborhoods to allow more housing will not lead to affordability; a voice that says CodeNEXT should benefit current Austinites, not just future ones.

Houston railed against past policies that encouraged development on the east side with no plan; Tovo disavowed the current CodeNEXT proposal, saying it has failed to gain community support, while Alter criticized the housing supply and demand argument.

Alter said the housing market is irrational and is more complex than the principles of supply and demand.

“Zoning … doesn’t equal housing supply and density does not equal affordability,” Alter said. “We need to remember that.”

The newly formed neighborhood preservation caucus dug their heels in the sand to ideologically oppose the other four-council-member caucus—Jimmy Flannigan, Pio Renteria, Delia Garza and Greg Casar—who, in their calls for more abundant housing throughout the city through CodeNEXT, claim density will help offset housing affordability concerns.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen and District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair have yet to take such a hard-lined position in the CodeNEXT debate.

Tovo, Pool. Alter and Houston have continually fallen in the minority in votes about the CodeNEXT process. They recently supported leaving the fate of CodeNEXT to voters and opposed their colleagues’ decision to keep the CodeNEXT petition question off the November ballot.

Without going into details, Pool said Tuesday the caucus would release a series of amendments to CodeNEXT they want implemented in order to support the project.

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  1. Refusal to change and refusal to embrace urban density in one of the fastest growing cities in the US is exactly how Austin has become unaffordable, traffic-ridden, and increasingly gentrified. Without an abundance of housing, things will only degrade further. Please, please, please have the forethought to plan for the future that the data shows will happen, not the one you wish would happen.

  2. So, you are saying that Austin is unaffordable, traffic-ridden, and gentrified , yet you believe there should be an abundance of housing. Something doesn’t add up…You do not make sense.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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