Public Notice: Damn the Torpedoes ...
Full speed astern at Planning Commission
It was an interesting meeting Tuesday evening at the Planning Commission, as commissioners got a preview of the city's Strategic Housing Blueprint update (see "City Housing Blueprint," Oct. 12) ... and sharpened some axes as if preparing to revive the CodeNEXT brawl over density vs. affordability.
The most pointed reaction to the presentation was the attempt by at least a couple of the commissioners to link the affordable housing issue back to a supposedly underperforming construction industry, hamstrung by NIMBYs and restrictive zoning. There was some considerable bloviation about how far off the city is from meeting the goal of building 135,000 new housing units by 2025. Unfortunately, no one appeared to have those figures at hand, but they're readily available online: The Austin Chamber of Commerce lists 26,700 units permitted in 2017 in the Austin metro area, and 16,809 more in the first six months of 2018. At that rate, the Austin metro area is on track to have 252,000 new units by 2025, nearly double the goal. And over half those permits were inside the city limits.
Meanwhile, city demographer Ryan Robinson's recently updated Austin MultiFamily Report – which covers only multifamily developments within city limits – shows that some 11,500 multifamily units were submitted for site plan approval in the first three quarters of 2018, 6,689 others completed construction in the last year, and over 55,154 are currently in the development pipeline – either under construction, or with site plans approved or pending.
The fact is, in terms of gross numbers, the market is producing at least as many units as are suggested in the Blueprint, and far more than any city anywhere near our size in the U.S., according to those chamber statistics.
What isn't being produced, of course, is virtually any of the affordable units that we need – units which are disappearing due to market pressures, much faster than they can be built with public monies. But did any of the PCers ask about that? No. And apparently the housing department doesn't even track that figure. Nor was city demographer Robinson invited to provide such data, to a process that depends so very largely on accurate data. Bah.
Also not mentioned Tuesday night: The Blueprint doesn't just recommend adding 135,000 total units; it recommends adding specific numbers of units, affordable to different income levels, from above the median family income of $86,000, down to 30% of that, or about $25,800 a year. Look at what's been added, and I think you'll find that we're overbuilt on high-end units, but drastically under-built – and probably not even holding steady – on those on the lower end. Bah again.
Mexic-Arte Museum's fourth annual Catrina Ball is this Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Fairmont Ballroom, 101 Red River – a classy masked ball that's this fine organization's major fundraiser for the year, and a kickoff for the Día de los Muertos exhibits and events they have going on all month. See more at www.mexic-artemuseumevents.org.
Over the Lege is back! For one weekend only, to bring you a satirical look back, and ahead, at the madcap antics that go on under the circus tent at 12th & Congress. The first two editions were well-beloved by audiences and critics alike; now comes Over The Lege Part 3: Return of the Legi(slature), Oct. 12-14 at the Rollins Theater at the Long Center. "In a time when we all need a reprieve from watching the news, what better way to learn about the inner workings of the Texas Legislature than through song, dance, and sketch comedy?" The second act each night will consist of interviews with former state Sen. Wendy Davis (Fri.); lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier (Sat.); and Sen. Kirk Watson (Sun.). More info and tickets at www.thelongcenter.org/event/lege-part-3-return-legi-slature.