Georgetown has seen a surge of new multifamily developments over the past three years, and city planners are managing the growth by preparing to revamp the city’s comprehensive plan in 2018.
The development is adding to the city’s housing variety with pending projects that vary in scope and scale.
But planners see challenges ahead in ensuring denser residential additions are spread evenly throughout Georgetown, said Sofia Nelson, the city’s planning director.
“Almost every quadrant of the city is getting some sort of multifamily [development],” Nelson said.
In early 2017, the Georgetown Planning Department identified 14 multifamily housing projects that were either under development within city limits or in early planning stages.
The projects, which the city projects will add more than 2,400 new units, include a mix of apartments, condominiums and townhomes, according to the department.
Meanwhile, city planners received approval from Georgetown City Council to next year begin updating the city’s comprehensive plan, which will guide future land use, Nelson said.
Sign of change
Multifamily housing growth is happening in several cities outside Austin, said Steve Crorey, Austin Board of Realtors president-elect.
The growth is driven in part by more available land on which to build in Williamson County rather than in Travis County, Crorey said. That trend allows cities outside Austin to have a better mix of housing types and different prices, he said.
“I think in a positive way, those suburban communities that are outside the city of Austin have now become economic development cities in their own right,” Crorey said. “With that comes growth, jobs and housing.”
In recent years the mobility challenges that have stifled commuters driving into Austin have led companies to relocate to Williamson County, turning cities such as Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander and Georgetown from bedroom communities into employment centers, said Jim Gaines, chief economist at the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center.
Once a city begins to develop as an employment center, it attracts a wider variety of people with varying housing needs, Gaines said. Growth in multifamily housing tends to follow, he said.
“Georgetown has been there all along, but it has gotten a rejuvenation of new businesses emerging and being created in that area for people who live there so they can work there, and they don’t have to commute to Austin,” Gaines said.
For cities outside Austin, recognizing the growth trend presents opportunities to plan ahead in terms of zoning and city planning to set up corridors for denser development, including public housing or affordable housing options, Crorey said.
“I think areas like Georgetown, Cedar Park and Leander have an opportunity to actually plan ahead and not play catch-up like the city of Austin,” Crorey said.
Multifamily development in Georgetown varies in scope and scale.
Projects include the 303-unit Retreat at Wolf Ranch, a luxury apartment complex that broke ground in September near the Wolf Ranch Town Center. The project’s developer, McCann Realty Partners, expects to begin leasing later this year.
Homebuilder Century Communities plans to offer 70 condominiums in a 55-plus age-restricted community named Gatlin Creek.
Georgetown could see demand for more than 400 new multifamily housing units per year, according to an analysis completed in fall 2016 by Catalyst, a research firm that completed Georgetown’s retail merchandising study last year.
A significant portion of that demand is anticipated to be for less expensive multifamily units that rent between $500-$700 per month, according to the analysis.
“You can’t just live off of single-family [housing] alone, especially if you are growing. You must create a diverse housing market that includes all those different housing types and different price points to truly be affordable for everyone.”
— Steve Crorey, Austin Board of Realtors president-elect
A 2017 first quarter report from New York-based Berkadia Real Estate Advisors analyzed 68 multifamily communities between Georgetown and Round Rock and calculated the average monthly rent among more than 16,000 units of all types to be $1,071 per month. The average unit size was 920 square feet.
New multifamily development also includes affordable housing projects in the Georgetown area.
In 2016, City Council approved plans from three affordable housing developments that were seeking housing tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The awarded projects proposed along Williams Drive include Kaia Pointe, Live Oak Apartments and Merritt Heritage, all of which are in planning stages, according to the city.
Nelson said that from a planning perspective, the city should seek a variety of housing types, including single-family and multifamily developments.
With just about every part of Georgetown seeing or expected to see some sort of multifamily development, the issue now is to plan for growth so as to encourage land-use predictability—as much as possible—for property owners, developers and community partners such as Georgetown ISD, Nelson said.
She said planning officials would seek detailed guidance from City Council this fall before work begins on a comprehensive plan update. The update will likely take about 12 months to complete before it will head back to the council for approval, she said.
Ensuring development, particularly multifamily housing, does not grow oversaturated is a challenge, said Michaela Dollar, economic development director for Georgetown. Preserving land that may be attractive for future development is another issue to manage, Dollar said.
“You [need to] make sure you’re preserving the right area for the right uses,” Dollar said.
Crorey said Williamson County population growth presents opportunities to develop a better mix of housing types and housing prices outside of Austin. Markets that may have historically only seen single-family housing are now getting more options, he said.
“You can’t just live off of single-family [housing] alone, especially if you are growing,” Crorey said. “You must create a diverse housing market that includes all those different housing types and different price points to truly be affordable for everyone.”