Austin leaders to consider upzoning for housing affordability

City Council set to vote on controversial HOME initiative

Austin Leaders Explore Housing Affordability Solution
City Councilmembers Chito Vela and Leslie Pool (Chito Vela, Austin City Council, Getty)

The Austin City Council is set to vote on the controversial HOME Initiative, a plan aimed at alleviating the city’s housing affordability crisis. 

The initiative is meant to amend the land development code, allowing for more diverse housing options. However, the proposal has stirred divisive debate within the community, the Austin American-Statesman reported

Phase one of HOME calls for changes such as permitting up to three housing units, including tiny homes, on single-family zoned properties. Proponents, including various community groups and nonprofits like Austin Habitat for Humanity and AARP Texas, believe these amendments will enhance housing affordability and availability.

However, opposition groups, like Go Austin/Vamos Austin and Renters and Unhoused Neighbors Alliance of Central Texas, have expressed concerns about potential displacement, particularly in Austin’s eastern crescent. They fear the initiative may drive up land values, leading to increased property taxes and negatively impacting low-income residents.

The HOME Initiative has gained support from a majority of City Council members.

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Collaborative effort is needed to make housing attainable for future generations, said District 7 council member Leslie Pool.

Large scale upzoning is trendy in urban planning, but there is uncertainty as to whether it will result in housing affordability, said University of Calgary geography professor Eliot Tretter.

Austin City Council is expected to consider a resolution on Dec. 14 that would provide financial assistance to low- and middle-income homeowners willing to add accessory dwelling units to their properties, District 4 Council Member José “Chito” Vela said.

Scholars like Tretter have expressed skepticism, suggesting that HOME could address affordability only for the middle and upper classes, potentially exacerbating the displacement of vulnerable communities.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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