Abundant Housing

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Abundant Housing


Abundant housing is critical to keeping Austin affordable, and the city is failing to provide it. AURA’s platform calls for abundant housing in all parts of the city in order to make sure that there’s a place for everyone. What does that mean? It means more skyscrapers, more apartment buildings, more garage apartments, and more single family homes and duplexes. In short, housing should be abundant and available. Many times, multi-family apartments are hard to build because they require a change in zoning, which is often contested. But when Austin has a bigger housing stock, we can make it affordable for everyone, and the city as a whole benefits. Supply and Demand Many people in Austin say “we can never meet housing demand” and contend that only expensive homes are being built, but don’t offer a proposed alternative, preserving current housing stock. Preservation does not address the undeniable increase in housing demand and will ensure increased housing costs and rents. One way to think about demand is to imagine a limitation on how many cars can be made each year. With credit to the Let’s Go LA blog, if only 7,500 cars were allowed to be built each year, then car manufacturers would only build high-end luxury vehicles, like Maseratis. If 750,000 cars were allowed each year, they’d still be unaffordable to most people, but high powered executives, trust-fund babies, and others would be able to buy them. But at 75 million cars a year, new cars would be available to wide array of people, and people could afford to buy a car. The vast majority of the cars would be built for average, normal people (just like they are today). Housing manufacturers (developers), like car manufacturers, are in it for the money. But if they can build enough to meet demand, then everyone wins. Putting in too many restrictions to protect this local place or that local concern ignores the big picture: limits on housing mean that only well-off people can afford new homes. Gentrification and Displacement Many areas in central Austin that have housed low-income families are facing “gentrification.” Demand for housing in these areas have increased, thereby driving up land value, taxes, and rents. Low-income families are easily displaced from these areas, especially renters. A Builder’s Market When housing stock is filled to capacity (or greater), landlords and sellers have the upper hand in negotiations. But when there are many choices, and it’s easy to build more choices, it’s easy to tell a landlord no. A Landlord’s Market The limited affordable housing stock in Austin gives Affordable Housing The market doesn’t need to be the only thing to help get new homes. Government supported bonds to develop affordable housing, expanded rent support from non-profits and the city, and co-operative housing are all a part of the solution, and new low-income housing shouldn’t just be built on the margins – but where low-income people have easy access to education, jobs, and high-quality transit. There are many reasons that we need an abundant housing policy in Austin, and it's unjust to limit housing choices to just the upper class.