Proposed Austin code rules will impact everyone living in Austin

New homes being constructed in North Austin on Sept. 1, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
New homes being constructed in North Austin on Sept. 1, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wednesday is the public’s first opportunity to explore the new draft of the city’s land development code. This is the first time in 30 years the code has been rewritten to reflect the changes to Austin.

“It affects every property owner, every renter, everyone that lives in Austin, whether you live inside the city or just outside our city limits,” says Greg Guernsey, Director of the Austin Planning and Zoning Department.

The plan, known as CodeNEXT, sets the rules and standards for things like affordable homes, green infrastructure, the character and look of a neighborhood, and mobility options.

The Austin branch of Habitat for Humanity is paying close attention to the rewrite. Right now, they are waiting to develop an old lumber yard on E. 4th St. just one block from the MetroRail station. They believe the rewriting of the code will allow them to build more affordable units instead of just single family homes.

“Right now we are currently restricted by our current land development code where we are either pushed down in height or we have to build more parking spaces then we need on those properties,” says Greg Anderson, Director of Operations for Habitat for Humanity. “So we make a lot of trade off where we build more expensive building types because of our current land development code.”

Top 10 issues identified regarding the current land development code:

  • Ineffective base zoning districts
  • Competing layers of regulations
  • Complicated “Opt-in, Opt-out” system
  • Lack of household affordability and choice
  • Auto-centric code
  • Not always in line with Imagine Austin
  • Lack of usability and clarity
  • Ineffective digital code
  • Code changes adversely affect department organization
  • Incomplete and complicated administration and procedures

The code will also impact those looking to remodel or build a home. In April, the city will issue a map showing how each neighborhood will be zoned.

“It will be easier to interpret because you’ll know the height or the set back – those things are baked into the individual zones whereas before they might have been scattered throughout several sections of the code,” says Guernsey.

The first public meeting takes place at the Palmer Events Center Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. A final version of the code is expected to go to City Council for adoption in 2018. For more information on the CodeNEXT outreach efforts and upcoming meetings, visit austintexas.gov/codenext. 

Kate Weidaw is LIVE with how this will impact the Austin housing market, on KXAN TV from 4:30 to 9 a.m. 

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