City can’t even build duplexes on its own land

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The other day I flagged this 4,250 square foot city-owned property that city staff wants to transfer to the Austin Housing Finance Corporation for the development of affordable housing. I thought it was weird that the plan was to develop a single-family home. That’s a very inefficient way to spend housing dollars.

It turns out, a couple other Council members didn’t like what they were seeing either. But there’s nothing they can do about it short of overhauling the land development code.

Not only is the parcel currently zoned for single-family, but there is no zoning category available under the city code that would allow the parcel to accommodate more than one unit, explained Planning and Zoning Director Greg Guernsey. The minimum lot size for a structure with multiple units is 5,750 square feet.

The issue drew the attention of Jimmy Flannigan and Greg Casar, both of whom said they were eager to target these kinds of limitations when Council takes another crack at land use reform next year.

Mayor Steve Adler, just a week removed from claiming a mandate to reform land use regs, mostly kept quiet, except to note that Council’s vote yesterday did not commit the parcel to a single-family use. If there are new rules in place by the time the development planning begins, maybe the city could build a duplex or a triplex on the property.

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that the most recent draft CodeNEXT wouldn’t have helped in this case either.

However, even the proposed reforms in CodeNEXT would not have allowed for multiple units on such a small lot. The last draft would have allowed two units on a 5,000-square-foot lot.

Adler said he had a mandate to push for reforms. But does he have the confidence to push big ones?

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