The city’s terrible housing goals

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Throughout the conversation about the new land development code, there has been abundant talk of what the city must do to “meet our housing goals.” Much of that talk has come from the Council moderates, notably Mayor Steve Adler and CM Ann Kitchen.

“Housing goals” is often shorthand for the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint, a plan adopted by City Council two years ago that sets a goal of of 135k new units between 2015-25 in the Austin metro area, 60k of which should be affordable to those at 80% area median income.

Where did 135k come from? Here’s the methodology:

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Therefore, 135,000 new units is not what we need to make things any better. It’s just what needs to be produced to keep up with population growth. It’s what we need to allow to maintain the status quo, where the urban core has become unaffordable and large swaths of the poor and working class are moving to the exurbs in search of affordable housing. This number of units will do nothing to make the city more affordable to those who have left the city or are considering doing so in the near future.

As far as I know nobody on Council has raised this issue. I’m eager to stand corrected.

Instead, what we see now is reform advocates on Council pushing for a code that achieves the Blueprint’s insufficient goals. They are facing resistance from neighborhood preservationists and hesitance from moderates.

 

But even if we are to make the dubious assumption that the Blueprint goal is adequate, it’s a mistake for 10-year goals to guide the housing capacity in a code anticipated to last 30 years. Julio Gonzalez at Keep Austin Wonky elaborates on what we need for the next 30 years:

A duration closer to 30 years – which is the age of the current code – seems much more reasonable. Even if you keep the conservative 13,500 units/year and 3x multiplier factors, that would increase the required capacity to 1,215,000 units.

In this context, even the most ambitious proposals being put forward on Council fall FAR short of providing the capacity necessary to house Austin’s future population.

Tomorrow Council will finalize its guidance to staff on the new code. Is it too late to sound the alarm on housing?

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