Housing groups call on Austin to finish CodeNEXT

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The city of Austin is updating its land development code, dubbed CodeNEXT, so that future developments conform to the city’s comprehensive plan, Imagine Austin, which was adopted in 2012.

But a coalition of housing organizations say in the four years since Imagine Austin’s adoption, the city has become more difficult to afford, and residents are being pushed to outlying cities, thereby increasing traffic congestion.

On June 15, the coalition called on city officials to stop delaying the process and release a draft land development code in January 2017 as planned.

The coalition included AURA, Austin Apartment Association, Austin Board of Realtors, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Austin Alliance, Evolve Austin, Home Builders Association of Austin and Real Estate Council of Austin, or RECA.

RECA President Ward Tisdale said Austin needs 15,000 new dwelling units every year for the next 10 years to put downward pressure on rent and home prices. CodeNEXT, which would increase housing density and affordability, is more than a year and a half late in its release, he said.

“We’ve been patient with these delays,” Tisdale said. “We expect City Council and staff to meet their most recent deadline.”

Tisdale said the coalition recommends the new code include programs to incentivize the construction of housing that is below market cost, options for more affordable housing and limited or no regulations on quantity, density or lot and unit sizes.

ABoR CEO Paul Hilgers said the median sale price of a home in Austin has risen 7.6 percent per year since Imagine Austin was adopted.

“The market is getting tighter every year,” he said.

Hilgers said a “not in my neighborhood” mentality should not cause the city to backtrack on its comprehensive plan. City Council is required to uphold Imagine Austin whether the body agrees with it or not, he said.

Lonny Stern of Evolve Austin said CodeNEXT, once adopted, would improve affordability by allowing more housing on smaller lots within city limits. Smaller dwellings would also cut down on water and energy costs, he said.

In November, the city sponsored CodeNEXT Sound Check events, which allowed residents to weigh in on how they want development within the city to proceed. On May 3, the city released the second of four Code Prescription papers, which preview code changes, such as tree protection, flood mitigation and transportation and housing options.

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Kara covers Northwest Austin, Round Rock ISD and health care in the greater Austin area.

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