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Austin's new land development code to address 'housing crisis'

The City is revising the land development code for the first time in more than 30 years.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin is in a housing crisis. That’s according to the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR), who reported record-breaking home sales in October. The problem, according to ABoR, is the inventory of single-family homes in Austin also dropped to an all-time October low.

That means more buyers than ever, with fewer homes than ever.

"Sometimes when I'm showing homes and the price range is under $400K, I'm standing in line with other buyers to get into the house," said ABoR director and realtor Ashley Jackson. "Literally in line, waiting our turn to go inside and view the only house for sale in the neighborhood – yeah, that's a crisis."

To address housing availability and affordability, the City of Austin is updating the land development code for the first time in more than 30 years.

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"We really need to update the code so we can meet the needs and priorities of Austin today,” said Annick Beaudet, who heads the team overseeing the land development code revision.

The team, made up of people from all different departments within the city, was tasked by Austin City Council to redevelop the land code to allow for more dense housing options within the city.

"We are focusing the new zones and zoning districts that can add capacity along our activity corridors or along major roadways," said Beaudet. "It's not just zoning; it covers environmental regulations and the process, as well as transportation."

They're specifically trying to address what’s referred to as "the missing middle." That's the required space in current city code between development along major corridors, like Lamar Road and South Congress, and the single-family residential homes behind them.

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Typically, there must be at least 25 feet plus elevation between the businesses and the homes.

Now, the City is mapping out "transition zones" where higher-density family housing could be built in that space, such as townhomes and duplexes.

"We don't have to add just single-family homes. Buyers want a variety of homes in a variety of places across the city," said Jackson.

The idea is to build housing within walking distance of jobs, businesses and public transportation to reduce traffic on the roads and allow people to live closer to Austin, instead of commuting from outer cities.

The first draft of the new land development code was released on Oct. 4. Since then, the Austin Planning Commission has made more than 100 amendments to the code revision, according to Beaudet.

Now, the latest version of the land development code will be unveiled next week, on Nov. 25.

Then, the Austin City Council will hold a public hearing on Dec. 7 and will begin the voting process on Dec. 9.

For more information, visit the City's website.


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