I’ve been eager to see what Ellen Troxclair, Council’s lone Republican, has to say about CodeNEXT. As I’ve said before, Troxclair almost always votes in favor of increasing entitlements but she doesn’t talk about development policy much. And while it would generally be consistent with her ideology to support more market-driven policy, Republicans in Austin are actually less likely to support CodeNEXT than Democrats, which is consistent with the fact that Republicans generally prefer suburban lifestyles to dense, urban environments.
Last week, Troxclair finally spoke on the matter, offering a resolution to require that CodeNEXT be “tested” by development professionals to see how well the new regulations accommodate the city’s housing goals. The resolution is notable for how much language it borrows from left-leaning urbanism. Among other things:
WHEREAS, housing makes up the largest share of most Americans’ spending, and continued escalation in housing costs forces individuals to spend less on food, health care, utilities, transportation, and other necessities; and
WHEREAS, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University reports that a shortage of available, affordable housing threatens to displace long term residents as more affluent households pay a premium for homes that would traditionally be occupied by lower-income families; and
WHEREAS, according to the White House Housing Development Toolkit released during the Obama Administration:
“The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions”; and,
WHEREAS, the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan endeavors to:
- Distribute a variety of housing types throughout the city to expand the choices available to meet the financial and lifestyle needs of Austin’s diverse population and to increase rental and ownership opportunities for singles, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and multi-generational families; and
All of this is very encouraging to pro-CodeNEXT forces, suggesting that there are five votes in favor of using the code to significantly increase housing stock. That means you only need the mayor or Ann Kitchen to get a majority. Where things might get tricky, though, are density bonuses. Troxclair might not be inclined to support zoning that is based on incentivizing the development of income-restricted housing.