On May 23rd, the CodeNEXT Code Advisory Group (CAG) held a public input session to give Austinites a chance to weigh in on recommendations expressed in the second CodeNEXT prescription paper on household affordability. Participants filed into different rooms at the Carver Museum in East Austin. First, they were asked to respond to a series of questions such as “What role did size and space (of the home and property) play in your decision to live where you live?” and “In the next 10 years do you anticipate living in the same place or do you expect to move?” Here are some comments that were made during those sessions.
“My wife and I recently searched for a homeownership opportunity, and while we were willing to trade size for proximity to downtown, that wasn’t possible because the smaller homes near downtown, mainly condos, were out of our price range.”
“Rather than a single-family home we would have gladly chosen a unit in a duplex or a fourplex, but they’re not available in every neighborhood. Because we wanted to be close to our school, we chose a single-family home that had a bigger yard than we wanted.”
“We were living in Wells Branch and we wanted to live closer to work. We did find some homes in our price range, but they were not in good condition. We would have had to take out a second loan just to fix them up. We ended up buying in some townhomes that were a little further north than we wanted.”
“We moved to District 5 (South Austin) from Dallas for work. This summer, we’re contemplating moving closer to downtown because we want to utilize transit more and riding bikes and being able to walk to destinations like stores.”
In one session, much of the discussion centered around gentrification in East Austin.
“I live on East Riverside close to 35. When I walk around my neighborhood, I see empty lots where apartments were once lived in, apartments where people lived who were forced out. Their buildings were destroyed so other people could live there. We like to think these people were priced out by a marketplace that doesn’t really care about anybody, but it’s not just the market that forced people out, it’s the system of laws that we have in place that prevent people from buying cheaper homes on less land.”
“Density doesn’t always mean affordability. When we talk about affordability and the goal of the City of Austin we look at what’s being built. It’s primarily very high-density units in the central city that are generally one-bedroom or efficiencies that are leased at outrageous prices. So, that leaves out families.”
“We have to come up with things like placing apartment units on City-owned, County-owned and AISD-owned property so you can land bank and only pay the price of the building unit itself, which reduces the cost.”
The Code Advisory Group and City Staffers compiled notes from the comments made, which will help them as they make recommendations to the City about changes to the Land Development Code. Click here to view the notes from the public input session.