The CodeNEXT rewrite of Austin’s outdated Land Development Code (LDC) isn’t a magic cure for our affordability challenges, but it is a critical tool.
Austin wasn’t always so sprawling and by looking to our past there are ways we can bring more affordable housing options back to Austin’s core, accommodate families, and get cars off the highways. David Whitworth discusses one little known infill tool that is currently available called small lot amnesty, but which could soon become useless if a City staff recommendation is adopted by City Council.
The City of Austin is engaged in the CodeNEXT re-write of our Land Development Code to align our land use regulations with Imagine Austin’s priority program 8 which calls for regulations that promote a compact and connected city. The row house is among the housing types that can help the city achieve the goals of Imagine Austin, can be built at a substantial discount to single family detached homes and thereby help address Austin’s affordability problems, efficiently utilizes available land, contributes to walkable communities and can help build a resilient tax base while still preserving high quality residential neighborhoods.
In the row house scenario – everyone wins. There are more units available and thus more people can live closer to their desired locations. Living closer means fewer and shorter trips, less traffic, and less congestion for everyone. The cost per unit is lower. The taxes per unit are lower, but the taxes collected by the City are higher. The City’s costs are arguably lower as well by not having to maintain roads and utilities and provide services over longer distances. The builder’s profit is higher which incentivizes more builders to build more lower cost units like this. We’ve added to everyone’s bottom line and made the city more resilient in the process. And the only thing we had to sacrifice was a bit of mostly useless side yards.