During Austin City Council’s Housing and Planning Committee meeting Jan. 28, staff told elected officials they found only 2% of housing built in the last 10 years was considered missing-middle housing. Missing-middle housing offers between two and eight units—typically in the form of duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes or townhomes.
District 4 Council Member Greg Casar said the new data proved why the housing type was called missing middle: It is missing from the city’s new housing construction, he said. Casar said although some missing middle currently exists in the city, the statistic offered by staff shows most of it was built years ago.
The proliferation of more housing types, such as missing middle, has been a central goal of the community’s effort to rewrite the land development code, which governs what can be built in the city and where. City housing experts have posited that increasing the supply of missing-middle housing, as opposed to large-lot, single-family homes, would work to meet skyrocketing housing demand with less expensive housing types, thus slowing the rising unaffordability of Austin’s real estate market.
Laura Keating, an urban planner with the city, said the new land development code is working to make it easier for developers with projects of three to 10 dwelling units to get through the development review process. Keating said the current code’s strenuous development review process for such projects poses a major obstacle for developers.
What to expect with the new code and maps
City staff will publish the new code text, zoning maps and a staff report Jan. 31. The following week, on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, City Council will host special work sessions to comb through the changes.
Approximately 199 amendments were offered by City Council during its December deliberations, 90% of which were implemented into the updated drafts, according to staff.
Keating told the housing and planning committee that the new draft would show a reduction in the city’s “base” housing capacity because City Council directed staff to reduce the size of missing-middle zones, which allowed for greater housing density through construction of missing-middle housing along the city’s transit corridors.
However, staff said this reduction would be offset by an increase in the “bonus” housing capacity. Base housing capacity is the amount of housing that the code can produce without any zoning or entitlement adjustments. The bonus capacity refers to the amount of housing that could be produced through the city’s incentive “density bonus” program. The density bonus program offers greater building entitlements, such as increased height or building cover, in exchange for guarantees from the developer they will build or finance the construction of subsidized housing.
Mayor Steve Adler said he wanted the community to remember that when the new drafts of the code and maps are released Jan. 31, it means City Council is not even halfway through the approval process, and many changes can still be made to what staff publishes this week.