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.



How is this good for affordability? The new homes being built aren’t affordable or for families. New homes help affordability in several ways. Larger developments often use density bonuses and other programs to build affordable housing. But even smaller developments can take pressure off of housing prices up and down the spectrum. Right now, as prices increase faster than wages, more and more people become housing stressed - building more housing in the urban core can at least reduce the constant increases in prices.

Will the new development increase property taxes for everyone? Property taxes are increasing because of higher demand for the land. New development is a symptom of high demand and increasing taxes, not a cause. Allowing more “Missing Middle” and larger apartment complexes in more places allows those families to split the cost of demand.

Aren’t dense cities always unaffordable? Some are, some aren’t.

Do you really think enough development will ever make housing for poor people? No, but we can reduce the number of people being priced out by constant rises in housing costs. We can also use new development to create funding streams for affordable housing - Homestead Preservation Districts will generate more revenue for affordable housing if more buildings are built, and density bonus programs can create on-site affordable housing or pay fees-in-lieu.

Isn’t new development displacing poor people?

Are you pro-gentrification? Gentrification often occurs because the wealthiest, whitest neighborhoods prevent additional development. Hyde Park, Travis Heights, and neighborhoods like that have some of the most restrictive rules for building, and so pressure on East Austin increases as a result.

Is this just another bullshit capitalist, supply and demand argument? Hey - we live in a capitalist society. We may not always like it, but there is such a thing as supply and demand until the revolution.


Will new development destroy neighborhood character? A lot of the options being discussed for new development rules focus on the “Missing Middle” - small scale 2-8 unit buildings that look and feel much like the single family homes around them. Hyde Park and Clarksville already have much of this, but many other central city Austin neighborhoods do not, and it can’t be built under current rules. Other proposals will allow central corridors like Burnet and Lamar to build larger complexes. Neighborhood character is also about the people who live there. Would you want to live somewhere with lots of charming bungalows that are all pretty much owned by wealthy people?

Developers don’t care about the black history of east Austin. Some of them do, but of course many are just interested in money. That’s why it’s important for City Council to set up development patterns that allow development where it’s most demanded: central Austin.

Why are new homes being built are so big and ugly?

I don’t want more students living near me. Remember that discrimination based on race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, and student status (among others) are prohibited forms of discrimination in our city’s charter.

Will density destroy all the green, open spaces?

Shouldn’t current residents get a say in how their neighborhood changes? Residents of Hyde Park used to not allow black people, and today’s rules are still organized by exclusion rather than inclusion.

What about the neighborhood plans?

FLOODING Will all the new development cause more flooding?