Many of my clients know that I have invested years with the Austin Board of REALTORS® and Texas REALTORS® working to protect private property rights and to “professionalize” my industry. You can see more about that at About Me. Today I want to focus briefly on a critically important public policy issue that affects the entire Central Texas region.
For more than five years I have been involved in Austin’s efforts to write a new Land Development Code. It's a huge and very controversial conversation, but one that can either improve or impede progress on many other issues -- transportation, mobility, utility infrastructure, energy efficiency and environment protections, flood mitigation, and even localized needs for implementation of Austin's Water Forward plan. If Austin fails to agree on productive new policy the negative effects will be felt – and paid for – far beyond the Austin city limits.
Implementing the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan for the city is the reason for the change in the land development code. Imagine Austin is a visionary plan for the future of Austin through 2040, and an important building block is an effective path to land use policy that allows the market to participate in deciding what gets built where.
The current land development code was adopted by a very different Austin in 1983 and it effectively stopped the construction of anything but single family homes, mostly on large lots, throughout the city. It has been amended hundreds of times, is confusing and self-contradictory, and is a very real barrier to development.
The lack of housing supply in Austin has increasingly driven Austinites, old and new, to move farther and farther away, creating many problems that we all know well. Austin is a city where a larger percentage of jobs than almost anywhere in the U.S. are within 3 miles of the Central Business District, but since fewer and fewer people can afford to live near the central city, sprawl is the result. Allowing for intentional changes in development patterns while respecting the value of existing neighborhoods is an important part of the solution.
On May 2, 2019 the Austin City Council provided policy guidance to the City Manager and asked that he return to present a draft code for first reading in October. The intention is to adopt a new land development code by the end of this year. I will provide updates as this process moves forward.