Bonuses Central to Land Development Code Rewrite At Special Called Council Meeting

The Austin Council held a special called meeting earlier today to discuss draft one of the Land Development Code (LDC), released Friday, October 4. This meeting focused on achieving housing capacity goals and the role of bonuses (ex. density) would play. Council’s current direction is for housing capacity to be three times the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint goal of 135,000 units, which would be 405,000 units.

Current LDC projections are just short of this 405,000 unit goal, at 397,000 total unit capacity. This lower capacity estimate excludes constrained land such as FEMA floodways, floodplains and critical water quality zones among others. City staff claims that this is to provide a more conservative, economically-constrained capacity estimate, rather than over promise what is feasible.

Opposed to the previous attempt at a revise land use code, CodeNext, the current draft focuses on reviewing each parcel of land to comprehensively consider all factors. A performance feasibility test will be performed on each parcel due to the exclusions for constrained land.

A little over half of the projected units (210,000 units) are met without bonus market-rate units, meaning the plan relies heavily on units from bonuses.

Staff stressed that bonus capacity is the essential to reach the council direction for overall capacity.

The proposed capacity assumes that the bonuses are taken. Bonuses is voluntary in Texas, so there is no guarantee that the city will reach this capacity in the case developers choose not to utilize the bonuses.

A large portion of the special meeting focused on the Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) Development and how these bonuses are calibrated and implemented.

ECONorthwest consulted on this program and proposed bonus enhancements for each draft zone. This program incorporates bonuses into more zones and maximized scale of bonuses relative to base capacity. AHBP offers fees-in-lieu based on the cost of subsidizing affordable units in Central Austin.

Bonuses are available in every district of the city to ensure opportunities citywide. 30,600 acres across the city are available for affordable housing bonus programs.