New CodeNEXT Petition: Make Austin Diverse Again!

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To the Mayor and City Council,

At the most recent State of the City Address (January 28, 2017), Mayor Adler remarked, “We know that diversity makes us stronger, that taking care of our environment is to our credit and not to our detriment. We’re laid back and focused. We’re willing to fail so long as we learn quickly and keep trying. The character of Austin is important to us for a reason. It’s about a quality of life where we don’t thrive despite our weird, diverse, and inclusive values – we thrive because of them!”

Due to the current land development code, Austin is experiencing an unparalleled housing crisis in which we are losing our class and racial diversity at an alarming rate, with the majority of Austinites (being renters) bearing the brunt of the costs. If the latest preliminary maps for CodeNEXT are approved by Austin City Council, the zoning for much of Austin’s core neighborhoods will be composed of the same (such as Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts or NCCDs) in the current code which have proven to inhibit affordability, class and racial diversity. NCCDs are zoning overlays that override city zoning laws. NCCDs applied to Hyde Park (and other core neighborhoods within Austin) are a main reason much of current housing stock has become out-of-reach for nearly all Austinites, save upper middle-class and wealthy homeowners.

Hyde Park and many other core neighborhoods were founded as a product of Jim Crow segregation. Not only that, but the segregationist founder M.M. Shipe has the most prominent park in the neighborhood still bearing his name (Shipe Park). Allowing more affordable housing types in central Austin such as missing middle housing that would allow a greater diversity of people to afford to live in Austin. Missing middle housing are housing types such as garage apartments, smaller homes on smaller lots, townhouses, bungalow courts, and smaller scale apartments.

While Austin is engulfed in a housing emergency, preserving only single-family zoning in core neighborhoods create de-facto zoning barriers to class and race. That’s not a zoning code. It’s a betrayal of Austin values.

To ensure diversity in Austin, we ask the Mayor and City Council enable the following in CodeNEXT:

  1. Allow missing middle housing throughout Austin.

  2. Lower minimum lot size to 1000 square feet & minimum lot width to 15 feet.

  3. Lower minimum front, rear, & side setbacks across LDR, T3, T4 and T5 zoning categories & within transect zones.

  4. Eliminate undefined housing conservation districts (such as NCCDs), except historic districts.

  5. Enforce “compact and connected” wherever possible in land development code.

Austinites have a responsibility to break the horrific legacy of Jim Crow and have a zoning code which adheres to the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan for a thriving middle and working-class and Strategic Austin Housing Blueprint 10-year goals to enable every Austinite to achieve housing security.

According to the Obama White House Housing Development Toolkit on land use regulations, “when new housing development is limited region-wide, and particularly precluded in neighborhoods with political capital to implement even stricter local barriers, the new housing that does get built tends to be disproportionally concentrated in low-income communities of color, causing displacement and concerns of gentrification in those neighborhoods. Rising rents region-wide can exacerbate that displacement.”

Austin must say no to zoning Donald Trump would approve! Let’s make Austin diverse again!

(Endorsed by Austin Affordable Neighborhoods Coalition.)

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