5 takeaways from Austin's proposed Strategic Housing Plan city council briefing on Thursday

The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department briefed the Austin City Council on the long-awaited Strategic Housing Plan.

The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department briefed the Austin City Council on the long-awaited Strategic Housing Plan.

The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department introduced the long-awaited Strategic Housing Plan to Austin City Council on Thursday.

The department has been drafting the plan since early 2015. It proposes a 10-year strategy for Austin to make significant progress in its housing and affordability crisis. The full plan can be read here.

Here are five biggest takeaways from Thursday’s briefing:

The plan proposes adding over 135,000 housing units by 2025

The 135,000 figure has been echoed over the last few months, but many questions have been raised over how the city reached that approximation. According to Erica Leak of the NHCD, the equation was as follows: Current housing units (397,637) multiplied by the estimated growth of the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area by year 2025 (34 percent), which comes out to 135,197 units needed to accommodate growth.

District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen called the 135,000 figure “misleading."

Kitchen said the equation used to get to the 135,000 estimate is broken. She criticized the number for not considering the current 48,000 affordable housing unit gap or the hundreds of homeless people that need housing in the city.

“The goal has always been to point out what we need, not a number that we think we can get to,” Kitchen said.

Leak said that if those factors were taken into consideration, it would likely be another 88,000 units needed by 2025. Casar suggested the city come up with separate goals for housing: an extreme, “mission accomplished” estimate, a more moderate “aspirational” estimate and a conservative “just keeping our head above water” estimate.

The Imagine Austin Corridors will bear the density

The plan prescribes that at least 75 percent of the new housing should be within one-half mile of the Imagine Austin Centers and Corridors. This is the focus of the “Austin Bargain” that Mayor Steve Adler has been championing since his State of the City Address earlier this year, which pushes to manage the city's inevitable growth in a way that protects neighborhoods and places density along the city’s corridors.

The plan establishes “an aggressive” council district rental and ownership housing goals.

The city should strive to offer 10 percent of rental units in each council district at or below 30 percent of the median family income and 25 percent of ownership housing units offered at or below 120% of MFI, according to the plan.

“It may not sound aggressive but it is quite aggressive,” said Leak. “It would be an incredible increase.”

The proposal makes 10 final recommendations

  1. Adopt the Affordable Housing Goals to Guide Policy

  2. Implement consistent density bonus programs from Imagine Austin Centers and Corridors through CodeNEXT

  3. Strengthen Austin’s scoring criteria and develop policies to prioritize affordable housing near current and future transit zones

  4. Purse future general obligation bond elections for affordable housing

  5. Streamline city codes and permitting process

  6. Expand the use of community land trust and other forms of shared equity ownership

  7. Provide additional funding to monitor Austin’s affordable housing investments

  8. Target preservation property tax exemption to communities at risk of displacement

  9. Undertake strategic land banking

  10. Provide additional general fund appropriations for affordable housing