Pro-housing side appears to have upper hand in CodeNEXT

Yesterday’s City Council work session on CodeNEXT was most likely entirely useless except that it offered the clearest distinction between the two sides of the debate. While it was contentious and there was no sign of the holy 8-vote consensus for which the mayor so dearly yearns, all the signs suggest that a majority of the dais believe the city needs a lot more housing.

It’s just a question of how far the two moderates (Adler and Kitchen) are willing to push.

I wrote about it in the Monitor:

Council Member Greg Casar wanted to push for an even more ambitious (housing) capacity goal, suggesting that the capacity should be twice as great as the number of units that Council hopes to create.

Council members Leslie Pool and Alison Alter objected to the language, which they described as too specific and potentially unrealistic. Both also said that they didn’t see the point of debating housing goals, given that Council had already established goals through the housing blueprint.

Pool was unconvinced by the notion that the capacity had to exceed the desired housing production. “I don’t know that it must be greater,” she said.

Also notable was that Alter said she didn’t subscribe to the Strategic Housing Blueprint that Council adopted last year that calls for 135,000 new units over the next decade. She said that she believes 135,000 units is the correct figure for the metro area, not the city.

Kathie Tovo was characteristically moderate in tone, but clearly conveyed her opposition to the idea that Austin has to create a ton of new market-rate housing.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said that while the language appeared inoffensive in the abstract, she noted concerns “in the community” about the potential implications of ambitious housing goals.

“It’s about the questions down the road,” said Tovo.

She teed that one up for Garza:

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“I don’t care what we have to do down the road,” said Garza. “If it means that I’m going to live next to a fourplex or a sixplex or a tenplex, I’m OK with that … so we can keep our minority and working families in Austin.”

It will be interesting to see the role that Ellen Troxclair, Council’s only conservative/Republican, plays when she returns to the dais from maternity leave. She’ll probably be a reliable vote in favor of increasing entitlements, but she likely won’t be as big a fan of density bonuses or other policies aimed at incentivizing income-restricted housing.

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