AISD Board to CodeNEXT: Remember Us
School board passes resolution recommending consideration of AISD students
CodeNEXT shortcomings seem to generate an unending chatter, but on Monday, Austin Independent School District trustees passed a resolution relating to the impending land use rewrite without so much as a single word. The resolution sends 13 recommendations to city staff concerning how the rewrite can better support AISD's students, family, and staff, emphasizing opportunities for affordable, family-friendly, and "workforce" housing throughout Austin to support the district's goal of promoting what AISD Planning Services Manager Melissa Laursen describes as "diverse, inclusive schools and neighborhoods where people of all backgrounds, races, and income levels have the opportunity to safely learn, work, and live."
According to the resolution, more than half of AISD's students are considered "economically disadvantaged," whose families rely on "deeply affordable" or subsidized housing. Additionally, the majority of families currently reside in single-family homes, duplexes, and townhomes; the resolution bemoans the fact that the "vast majority" of Austin's new housing units are "small, expensive apartments and condos." Also provided is a recent sampling of 6,895 new housing units, collected over the summer by AISD board member and Planning Commission ex-officio Ann Teich, which found that those units were home to only 46 (primarily white) AISD students. AISD's board recommends that the code encourage the preservation of older "market affordable" single-family homes and duplexes and increase opportunities for "house-scaled" residential zones to allow for these building types. The resolution also calls for additional workforce housing (up to 120% median family income for ownership units) so that teachers can live in the communities they serve, and recommends retaining existing parking requirements for residential properties within 750 feet (or 1,500 for commercial) of a public school within the urban core. This, they say, will preserve needed school parking and protect students from traffic-related dangers.
Laursen said it was Teich, with her knowledge of CodeNEXT and experience on the Planning Commission, who suggested trustees pass a resolution. The agenda item, written by AISD CFO Nicole Conley Johnson, states that a passed resolution "would ensure that the city has clear guidance on how CodeNEXT can align with our shared goals." Like others who feel their recommendations have fallen on deaf ears, AISD feels unheard, beyond speaking engagements with the land use commissions and AISD representation in the CodeNEXT Advisory Group. The issue reached a public boiling point on Sunday, when the Statesman took a half-page out of its editorial section to suggest that AISD has long felt left out of CodeNEXT talks. They called the forthcoming resolution a "more public, forceful approach." Laursen explained on Monday that AISD's goal is "continued collaboration with the City of Austin to support increased opportunities" for affordable housing that best supports AISD families.
The resolution comes less than two weeks after city staff announced a timeline extension for the third and final draft of CodeNEXT, which was originally slated for release on Tuesday, Nov. 28. That's been extended to February so that staff can more adequately consider public and stakeholder feedback they've received on draft two. What that means for the rest of the code's timeline remains uncertain.