Affordability Unlocked and Its Impact (Part 2)

Today, we continue with part 2 of our guest post about Affordability Unlocked by Brian Poteet.

All of the projects we discussed in Part 1will make a dent in Austin’s ever-escalating affordability crisis, but that’s unfortunately all they’ll make – a dent. In 2017, City Council committed to building at least 135,000 housing units over the subsequent decade. Before moving on, I’m compelled to say that this goal is embarrassingly low for the core of a metropolitan area that is adding 50,000 people each year. It implies that the city is entirely indifferent about the vast majority of people moving to live in car-centric suburbs outside of Austin. It also absurdly implies that building 135,000 units before 2028 is enough to stabilize prices.

I could continue this rant for a while, but I’ll leave it at that. Anyway, here’s how we were doing at the end of 2019, before AU came into effect:

From the 2019 Strategic Housing Blueprint Scorecard
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Affordability Unlocked and Its Impact

Austin on Your Feet is lucky to have a guest column by Brian Poteet! We’re running it two parts: today an overview of some projects and tomorrow some analysis! Brian grew up in Austin and graduated from UT in 2017. Since then, he’s been living and working without a car in Central Austin all while developing an unhealthy obsession with city government. When he’s not online you can find him roaming the streets on his bike or playing tennis as if he taught himself during a pandemic.

Back in May 2019, City Council unanimously approved an affordable housing bonus program introduced by Council Member Greg Casar called Affordability Unlocked (AU). The program intended to significantly increase how far affordable housing developers could stretch each dollar. Developers who provide low- and moderate-income housing get to work with a looser ruleset when building. 

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E-bikes and Families: an interview with Mary Pustejovsky

Mary and her bike

With the ongoing pandemic, the normal fare for this blog has been shut down. So we’re branching out into a new kind of content: an interview with Mary Pustejovsky, Board Member of the Red Line Parkway Initiative, former Board Member of AURA, and Someone who Bikes for Transportation and Loves to See Other People Do It Too. This is the first interview I’ve done for the blog and I failed to get my audio equipment working, so the below is from my notes. All apologies to both Mary and my readers for anything I mess up!

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Way Too Early Ideas for Austin to Prepare for the End of Corona

For all of you reading this shortly after it’s been posted, no context is necessary. But in case anybody ever goes back and reads this months or years from now, here’s the situation as I write this. Most folks in Austin are working from home on account of the global pandemic COVID-19. Dining areas in bars and restaurants are closed. Yesterday, 18 positive tests for the virus in Austin were added to the 23 existing ones. 2020’s edition of SXSW was cancelled and a large chunk of SXSW, Inc’s workers were laid off. So many other workers are being laid off in Austin and around the country and world that people are starting to ask whether the economic collapse will look more like the Great Recession or the Great Depression. Cap Metro has reported a nearly 50% drop in ridership and has dropped service to mostly Sunday-levels. I could go on and on but suffice it to say the situation isn’t looking good.

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How Big Should Project Connect Go?

Last week I had the privilege of attending an open house for Project Connect, the planning effort to build a high-frequency, high-capacity, fast-running base for Austin’s transit system. Although the in-person open houses for the Orange and Blue lines are over, you can still review the materials and get your feedback heard at the virtual open house. CapMetro didn’t come forward with one fully-baked proposal, but presented a number of choices with tradeoffs: do we go big or go small? Below are my choices and I hope y’all let me know yours!

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West Campus Two Point Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh!

I may have written about West Campus a time or two before. But this time I come not to praise West Campus, but to bury it — in new developments! On Thursday, October 3, Austin’s City Council will consider the biggest changes to the rules that govern a good chunk of West Campus (known as UNO or the University Neighborhood Overlay) since they were initially passed in 2004. The proposed changes would:

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Checking in on CapMetro Ridership

It’s been a while since I last checked in on Cap Metro ridership. CapMetro has released a snazzy performance dashboard, but it didn’t completely visualize the data how I wanted it to so I put together a dashboard of my own using CapMetro’s data to help me understand the dynamics affecting bus riders in Austin. I’ve found some continuation of existing stories and some stories that are completely new.

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The regulations we need to #parktheplinth

Last post, I talked about physical alternatives that would let us #parktheplinth. Or in normal terms, ways to build downtown towers that don’t have giant parking plinths. Before that, I also discussed the regulatory reasons why large parking plinths are common downtown, but much less so in West Campus. So, today, let’s combine the two thoughts: what regulations could we have downtown that would encourage people building towers downtown to use some of those alternatives to parking plinths?

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Five Alternatives to Giant Parking Plinths

Last year, I sketched out why downtown has so many huge parking plinths. But another world is possible! Today, we’ll check out alternatives to the plinth. Then, coming soon, we’ll have a look at how regulations could finally #parktheplinth.

The Independent (aka the Jenga Tower) under construction. The open floors are parking, the one with windows above are where the residences start. Photo by Dan Keshet.

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Six Reasons Austin Should Go Big On Small Apartments

Coming up on Thursday, the 2019 version of the Austin City Council will start deliberating on one of the biggest decisions of this year: where to go now that CodeNEXT is dead. City Manager Spencer Cronk asked for direction from City Council on five questions, including how much we should allow “missing middle” housing (think: small multi-unit buildings like triple deckers or four-plexes). This kind of missing middle housing could make a tremendous difference in improving housing in Austin. Here’s six reasons why.

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