Austin creates innovative plan to boost affordable housing

Approach includes loosened zoning, incentives for higher density in lower-cost and mixed-income developments.

May 23, 2019 |

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City leaders in Austin, Texas are backing an innovative policy to increase the amount of affordable housing.

The plan relaxes zoning restrictions and provides incentives for higher density construction in affordable and mixed-income developments. To qualify, 50% of the housing in a development must be affordable—priced for families earning 60% or less of median family income (MFI) for the area.

For-sale properties must be affordable at 80% of MFI or below. If projects meet baseline criteria, developers could increase density and total rentable or sellable space. That includes the go-ahead to build higher than a zoning district’s limits.

Other loosened restrictions include a reduction of setbacks and minimum lot sizes, waiving height/setback compatibility standards, and bringing accessible-parking requirements up to code. The program is applicable in commercial and residential zoning districts, except in industrial zones or near sites that present certain health hazards, and in most special-use zoning and overlay districts.

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