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Austin’s First-Ever Housing Plan Hits City Hall

 A new house sits next to one under construction
Ilana Panich-Linsman for KUT
The Arbor Ridge development located on Nuckols Crossing Road in 2014.

This week, city leaders released a draft of Austin’s first-ever strategic housing plan. Unlike broader visions for the city’s future, it focuses on how development will impact the housing supply. 

Austin’s population is projected to grow by almost 3 percent next year. To meet that growing demand, the plan calls for adding 75,000 housing units with 35,000 of them being affordable.

Betsy Spencer is director of the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office. Her team presented the plan on Monday before the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee.

“This is no big surprise,” Spencer said. “The cost of land in high-opportunity areas is significantly higher, and that’s a big contribution to why we have so few affordable units in those areas.”

Before drafting the plan, the staff gathered input from residents across all 10 council districts. A majority of people agreed that Austin’s affordable housing should be distributed evenly throughout the city, and located near transit and schools. The plan also recommends that 25 percent of those affordable units be family-friendly, meaning they have two or more bedrooms.

Erica Leak with the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office says meeting those goals won’t be easy, but it could keep the city's housing crunch from getting any worse.

“We need to come together as a community to adopt a plan to really make headway on this issue,” Leak said.

In order to meet projected housing demand, the city would have to get creative with funding. The plan recommends building on existing programs, along with redirecting funds from other places toward affordable housing. One idea is to build the housing on publicly owned land. Council Member Ann Kitchen says the plan offers some useful strategies.

“This is getting there for me, so I’ll be wanting to think about, ‘ok so, how do we figure out where?’ as one of our next questions,” Kitchen said.

The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office will take more public comment this summer before issuing a revised plan. They’re hoping to get final approval by the Austin City Council late this year. 

You can read the full draft of the plan in the viewer below:

This story was produced as part of KUT's partnership with the Austin Monitor.

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