How Bipartisan Efforts to Increase Housing Supply Died This Session

Mourning the dead bills that could've addressed housing shortages

Photo via Getty Images

The 88th legislative session opened with the promise of unprecedented levels of housing policy reform enacted at the state level – much of which could have helped address the severe supply shortages still impacting the Austin residential market – but in the end, almost none of it came to pass.

The lack of progress is a result, to some degree, of votes cast by Democrats, including some representing the Austin area. Senate Bill 1412 from Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would have preempted local regulations implemented by some cities that limit the ability of property owners to build accessory dwelling units (basically, small additional houses) on their land. Lulu Flores, Vikki Goodwin, Gina Hinojosa – all members of Travis County's House delegation – voted against the bill. (John Bucy III, the Austin-area rep who killed the anti-Project Connect bill, voted for it, alongside James Talarico and Erin Zwiener, who also represent the region.)

In explaining her vote on Twitter, Hino­josa said she opposed all preemption bills, regardless of the merits of the specific piece of legislation. Austin lawmakers have been conditioned to fear attacks on local control from the state, though in this case, the law could have helped middle-­class Texans – many of whom are struggling to afford housing in booming cities.

That was the least controversial housing bill. Two others also failed. One would have eliminated local regulations on the minimum lot size cities can require for residential home construction, which would allow for greater housing density on less land. Another would have greatly reduced compatibility requirements, which generally restrict the size of multifamily housing near single-family homes.

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