As an update to Georgetown’s land development code takes a hard look at multifamily housing, the number of apartments in the city has increased 23 percent in the past year, according to Apartment Data Services, which tracks the multifamily industry in the Austin metro area.
Georgetown, a primarily single-family housing city, has gone from having 3,600 multifamily units in October 2017 to 4,433 units in October 2018, with an additional 352 coming by early next year, data show.
The city is encouraging multifamily housing as part of its 2030 plan—a development guide for city leaders as Georgetown grows—by adjusting zoning provision to provide greater flexibility for different housing types. The plan also looks to mix residential with commercial and employment uses throughout the city. The housing-specific element of the plan was adopted in 2012 and will be up for review in 2019.
Many of the new multifamily housing can be seen along Wolf Ranch Parkway, where a new 272-luxury apartment complex is going up.
“We want to build a community that has a mix of residential and commercial and, ideally, a combination of single-family and multifamily [housing]to have multiple places where people can live and play,” said District 2 City Council Member Valerie Nicholson, whose district includes areas around Wolf Ranch Parkway that have seen an influx of new apartments.
Nicholson said that as Georgetown continues to grow, city planners and council members are looking for more opportunities to create walkable entertainment areas, where residents can park and spend several hours in one location. This, Nicholson said, can cut down on cars on the road and keep spending money in Georgetown.
“The idea is to build a community, not to make (entertainment) just shopping or just eating at that one location,” Nicholson said.
By the numbers
Sofia Nelson, city planning director, said the city’s decisions on where residential, commercial and retail locations are built depends on resident demand for areas they would like to live and existing residential density.
While the city cannot decide which businesses go in which locations as long as businesses are in line with the comprehensive plan, Nelson said the city works to make sure a single place is not oversaturated with too many homes or too many businesses in one place.
“It’s important to identify where we want development to take place in order to have a variety of housing types,” Nelson said. “We are looking at where development is taking place so that it’s compatible.”
Georgetown is looking to provide more than a one-size-fits-all living experience, Nelson said, adding that as the city encourages job growth, it also needs to provide new housing options for future residents.
As part of the 2030 plan update, city staff, residents and stakeholders are re-evaluating development and zoning standards in order to “provide greater flexibility for the provision and integration of multiple housing types and densities,” the plan said.
“Desirability for a single-family home is not suitable for everyone,” Nelson said. “Many can’t afford it or don’t
Wolf Ranch Parkway has seen several new multifamily housing developments open since April 2017.
The luxury apartments of Carroll at Rivery Ranch, 800 Wolf Ranch Parkway, will add 272 units when it is completed in 2019. The complex is near the 332-unit Hillstone at Wolf Ranch, a luxury development that opened in August 2017.
Hillstone Assistant Manager Marilynn Bell said the complexes are in a booming area that is attracting residents who want to be close to Austin but live outside the city.
“It’s close to all the shops at Wolf Ranch (Town Center), close to schools, close to the beautiful downtown square and walking distance to several trails,” Bell said.
The Carroll will add to the more than 4,000 units already in 21 apartment complexes in Georgetown, said Cindi Reed, the southwest regional manager of Apartment Data Services.
Reed said Georgetown has seen an increase in multifamily housing as young people not ready to put down roots and empty-nesters looking for less home-ownership responsibilities make their way to the city.
Reed said as the housing market is based on supply and demand, developers recognize the desire for different housing options and are working to fill that void.
“We want to build a community that has a mix of residential and commercial and, ideally, a combination of single-family and multifamily [housing]to have multiple places where people can live and play.”
—District 2 City Council Member Valerie Nicholson
As of October, Georgetown had an apartment absorption rate—a calculation of vacant apartments rented out year-over-year—of 10 percent, which was double that of Austin at 5 percent.
“This means Georgetown is not overbuilding because apartments are being absorbed,” Reed said.
According to Apartment Data Services, the average monthly rent for multi-family apartments in Georgetown was $1,139 as of October 2018; up $96, or 6 percent, compared to one year ago.
The local rent increase is on par with Austin, Reed said, which has seen apartment rents increase 5 percent over the past year.
Reed said as long as people keep renting, developers will keep building.
“This is a lot of growth for a small town like Georgetown,” Reed said. “(But) this is a healthy market.”