April is National Fair Housing Month! President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April 11, 1968. Title VIII of that landmark legislation – known as the Fair Housing Act – prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
Fair housing choice is foundational to HousingWorks’ vision of “all kinds of homes in all parts of town for all kinds of people.” While our community grapples with issues of segregation and mobility, the City of Austin has taken some important steps to realizing this vision in recent years.
Nearly two years ago, the City of Austin adopted a Fair Housing Action Plan that established fair housing goals, metrics, and outcomes. The Fair Housing Action Plan identifies specific actions that the City will take to affirmatively further fair housing choice. Specific actions – with identified partners and timelines – include a range of activities, such as incentivizing family-oriented housing units in high opportunity areas and strengthening density bonus provisions to ensure long-term affordability in the city’s incentive programs.
Earlier this month, City Council unanimously approved the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint as an amendment to the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. The plan calls for the creation or preservation of 60,000 affordable units for households earning at or below 80% of the Median Family Income (MFI). The Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint is built around these five identified community values:
- Prevent households from being priced out of Austin
- Foster equitable communities
- Invest in housing for those most in need
- Create new and affordable housing choices for all Austinites in all parts of town
- Help Austinites reduce their household costs
The Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint calls for the full implementation of the Fair Housing Action Plan within the next three to five years. Full implementation will require the cooperation of a variety of partners – including various city departments as well as private partners. In addition, policy changes will be needed at the local and state level. It’s an ambitious plan that has the potential to impact affordability across the community.
Last week brought the much-anticipated release of the draft CodeNEXT maps! The city has provided an interactive tool that shows a side-by-side comparison of existing and proposed zoning. You can see a parcel by parcel analysis here.
HousingWorks Austin is busy looking at the maps and text (released on January 30th) from an affordability angle. As we explore the draft code and maps, we will be asking several important (and inter-related) questions:
- Will CodeNEXT provide the foundation for “complete communities” as articulated in Imagine Austin?
- Will CodeNEXT advance our goal of increased household affordability?
- Will CodeNEXT provide more diversity of housing types?
- Will CodeNEXT affirmatively further fair housing choice in the City of Austin?
There are a variety of upcoming CodeNEXT events to inform and engage the whole community, including CodeNEXT Open Houses in each of the 10 city council districts. If you are interested in digging into the text of the draft code, and exploring the affordability implications, please join HousingWorks and the Austin Housing Coalition for one (or all three!) of our upcoming informal reading sessions:
- Tuesday, April 25th, 11:30 – 1:00 pm, M Station (2906 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX 78702)
- Thursday, May 11th, 7:30 – 9:00 am, La Vista de Guadalupe (813 E 8th St, Austin, TX 78702)
- Tuesday, May 30th, 4:30 – 6:00 pm, Wildflower Terrace (3801 Berkman Dr, Austin, TX 78723)
These informal discussions will help to guide HousingWorks’ input into the CodeNEXT text and maps, and we welcome your participation. CodeNEXT provides a great forum for a broader community conversation about diversity, inclusivity, and equity. With broad and thoughtful participation, CodeNEXT could be one strategy to affirmatively further fair housing, in line with the vision that President Johnson articulated nearly 50 years ago.
Mandy De Mayo