I came across some interesting charts on the city’s Open Data portal. The data tracks Austin’s progress towards the “compact & connected” goals of Imagine Austin, the comprehensive plan that City Council adopted in 2012.
From 2008-16, Austin’s developed land increased by 50 square miles, from roughly 325 to 375. The green on this map is the 2010 development footprint, while the red is land that developed in the subsequent six years. The gray is undeveloped and the yellow is open space.
Look at all that gray in the east. To those who believe the great majority of the urban core should remain dedicated to single-family homes, those big gray patches are the solution to our housing crisis.
Hence, a recent debate at Council over minimum lot sizes. Reformers have pushed for eliminating minimum lot sizes citywide, while West/Central Austin preservationists countered that that might be OK … but only on undeveloped land. So cheaper forms of housing would be legalized east of 183 but would remain largely prohibited in the city’s most highest-opportunity areas.
It’s in this context that I look wistfully at the debate over the Grove at Shoal Creek back in 2016. That giant tract of formerly state-owned land was one of the few examples of undeveloped land in Central Austin resulted in a development that was nowhere near as dense as it could/should have been, with neighbors demanding a 1,515 unit cap on the 76-acre property. Little surprise then to see that the developer, Milestone, is now building gargantuan single-family houses and townhomes priced at over $1M.