I’m really looking forward to the KOOP conversation and the exchange of ideas leading up to it!
We should use the FAN forum insofar as we’re holding the preparatory conversation online. In general, our preferred practice to hold conversations transparently and “out in the open”. So this current forum topic is perfectly suitable for exchanging ideas and perspectives about affordability and how it relates to the FAN vision. Meeting in person (thanks, @Phil_Wiley and @alyshalynn) will complement and enrich the online conversation.
Here are some ideas to include in an “outline” for our KOOP appearance.
Household Affordability - One aspect of affordability that aligns with the FAN vision is Imagine Austin’s concept of “household affordability”. “Household affordability” refers to the combination of housing, transportation, and utility costs. As we make decisions about how our neighborhoods will grow and welcome new people, we have to consider the implications on transportation and utility costs, not just housing costs.
The appendix of the 2014 Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis showed that transportation costs are nearly as high as housing costs for residents in many neighborhoods in our city. Imagine Austin lists the number and per capita “cost burdened households” (as measured by combined housing, transportation, and utility costs) as a metric our city should use for determining whether we are meeting our goals of affordability.
Conditional Density Programs - I should also mention studies showing that the so-called “density bonus” programs that are in vogue with some city officials may actually worsen affordability. According to the studies, unconditionally relaxing restrictions on abundance and diversity of housing tends to result in greater overall affordability than requiring developers to set aside “affordable” units.
For example, Powell and Stringham wrote:
“Economics shows that all income levels benefit even when new construction is high-priced. The reason is . . . the interaction between the various housing markets, which includes the market for new housing and the market for existing housing.”
“[P]olicies that restrict the supply of new market-rate housing make all income levels worse off.”
[I]nclusionary zoning is . . . a price control that leads to a decrease in the amount of housing."
“Offsetting benefits, such as density bonuses, does not eliminate the costs imposed by inclusionary zoning . . . . Builders do not simply absorb this tax as a cost of doing business, nor do they continue to provide the same number of homes.”
Aging and the Housing Pipeline - Older housing tends to be more affordable. When we add new housing or replace old housing, it usually is relatively expensive. However, today’s expensive housing will become tomorrow’s more affordable housing. Expending our efforts trying to preserve existing affordable units - to the exclusion of expanding the supply of housing in high-demand neighborhoods - will only exacerbate our affordability crisis, especially in the long run. We need to dramatically and persistently feed the housing pipeline to slow the increase in housing costs in the short run, and to bring housing costs down in the medium and long term.
Gentrification and Segregation - Gentrification and the displacement of long-time residents of color and modest incomes is an important concern, but we should not lose sight of the other side of the coin. As @niran has powerfully expressed in other forums, many of our highest-demand neighborhoods are impenetrable to all but the weathiest (and often whitest) Austinites, resulting in de facto segregation. It’s just as important to provide opportunities for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to live in our neighborhoods as it is to address displacement. If, as a result of our land development code, there is no available housing for new neighbors, then it’s mathematically impossible to provide these opportunities.
Here are some excerpts from an analysis of the impact of housing supply on opportunity and displacement in the Bay Area:
“Another result of too little housing construction is that more affluent households, faced with limited housing choices, may choose to live in neighborhoods and housing units that historically have been occupied by low-income households. This reduces the amount of housing available for low-income households.” - page 8
“Between 2000 and 2013, low-income census tracts (tracts with an above-average concentration of low-income households) in the Bay Area that built the most market-rate housing experienced considerably less displacement” - page 9
“[D]isplacement was more than twice as likely in low-income census tracts with little market-rate housing construction (bottom fifth of all tracts) than in low-income census tracts with high construction levels (top fifth of all tracts).” - page 9
“Our analysis, however, finds that market-rate housing construction appears to be associated with less displacement regardless of a community’s inclusionary housing policies.”
Other topic ideas?