Recently Austin released the latest draft of its land development code known as CodeNext. The drafted rules increase the potential for income-based affordable housing by up to 9,000 units. The units could be spread out in areas across Austin. Currently there are just 1,500 available to those with incomes below the area’s median income (AMI).
The drafted code expands the area within the city that would be eligible for affordable housing bonus programs — from the current 5,600 acres to 30,600 acres. The benefits would allow developers to build properties with more units in taller buildings than they would be otherwise allowed provided they set aside a certain percentage of those units specifically for those with lower incomes. Rents would not exceed 30 percent of a person’s household income.
To achieve more units, the code would encourage less single-family homes in exchange for more multi-unit homes such as duplexes, fourplexes and sixplexes. The code not only focuses on number of units, but also strategically placing these mult-unit housing options in transition zones between major corridors and neighborhoods.
The idea is to provide more housing in Austin’s urban core and beyond by encouraging development with more units, especially in transition zones between major corridors and neighborhoods filled with single-family homes.
Affordable Housing in Austin
The state of Texas prohibits tools typically used in other states to mandate affordable housing such as rent control, inclusionary zoning and impact fees. As such, voluntary bonus programs is one of only a few tools the city has to encourage more income-based affordable housing options. The bonus program works by mixing market-rate units with affordable units. In general, it takes approximately 20 market-rate units to allow for one affordable unit. The developer benefits by being allowed to add more units to the building than otherwise allowed.