Since the CodeNEXT text draft was released in late January, a city-led team of consultants and architects has taken to the road to listen to feedback on the 1,100-plus-page document from various residents and public officials.
On Saturday morning, designated members from a number of the city’s boards and commissions met with the CodeNEXT Advisory Group and CodeNEXT staff to voice their support and concerns with what CodeNEXT has offered thus far.
After a brief presentation, the members broke out into small working groups to discuss their thoughts on the code so far. Here are some highlights:
CodeNEXT will not solve the affordability crisis, but it will do its part
Commission member Graham Reynolds said while CodeNEXT provides positive high-level goals, he expressed concern over how the new code is going to help with affordability. He said the new code has to avoid creating “class-based” neighborhoods while making housing diversity more of a priority in neighborhoods.
Jorge Rousselin, the CodeNEXT project manager, said CodeNEXT is not proposing to single-handedly solve the affordability crisis facing the city, but it will do its part in ensuring the code does not create any barriers to affordability.
Diversity in housing is important, but its placement matters
Sebastian Wren of the Early Childhood Council said a variety of housing options needs to be available, but the city must be aware of where they are being placed. Wren helped write the ban on “stealth dorm” construction, which are homes advertised as single-family but built with six bedrooms, six bathrooms and would host a random group of people—typically students—looking for affordable housing. Wren said he supported co-op housing and dorm–style homes for people trying to find affordable housing, but it needed to be advertised as such.
Certain applications can be grandfathered in from the old code
Rousselin said if the code is adopted by City Council in April 2018, there will be a grace period of roughly three to six months before it officially goes into effect. A member of the board of adjustment wondered what happened to construction or site plan applications submitted before or during this grace period that is still being processed in the middle of the code’s implementation. Rousselin said these projects have the luxury of choice to either continue under the regulations of the old code or retract their application and resubmit under CodeNEXT guidelines.
The new code is working on wildfire protection standards
Daniela Nunez, chair of the Public Safety Commission, said too many homes in Austin were vulnerable to damage from wildfires and asked what the new code was going to do to ensure fire protection standards. CAG Member Dave Sullivan said the code’s architects were working with Justice Jones, Austin Fire Department’s Wildfire Mitigation Division program manager, to incorporate adequate protection standards into the new code.