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Austin City Council passes new resolution to streamline process for 'middle' housing approval

Work is being done to bring more housing for moderate-income families to keep them from being priced out of Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas —

The Austin City Council passed a measure Thursday to help bring more affordable housing to the city. It aims to make it easier for developers to get homes on the market. 

Councilmember Paige Ellis, who represents District 8 and who lead the effort for this resolution, said it will streamline the approval process for "middle" housing geared towards moderate-income families.

"Getting your projects reviewed through the City department takes months or years and costs a lot of money,” Ellis said. “So, when people are trying to build housing, they have to buy the land and then sit on it and make payments on it for years before anyone can actually move into that home or rent the unit or sell the unit.” 

Ellis said the current code, which was written in the 1980s, only allows site plan review for small homes or large commercial complexes. There is no plan for homes in the middle. 

“Right now, we have a constrained market. So, with the 1984 code, what you're seeing is only single-family homes being built for large-scale apartments,” Ellis said. 

“I'm a renter myself that lives in a larger apartment development, but there's a lot of people that have zoning to do things like complexes that just don't have the money and the time to sit there and go through a lengthy review process that is not helping us meet our housing goals," Ellis added.

The resolution will allow triplexes and fourplexes to have the same site plan review as single-family homes and duplexes. It would also create a new plan called "site plan lite" for developments of five to 16 units. 

“We're trying to make sure that government bureaucracy and a whole bunch of, you know, hoops don't need to [be] jump[ed] through anymore as long as you're meeting the criteria of what this new program will entail," Ellis said.

She said the City wants to make sure that people who have property zoned for housing can get through the process quicker so that housing can be on the market faster. 

March is the deadline for triplexes and fourplexes to have the same review process as single homes and duplexes. The framework for "site plan lite" is due to be presented and voted on in June. 

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

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