Austin considers code changes to tackle housing affordability

By the time Texas hits its bicentennial in 13 years, it will be home to millions more additional residents — most of whom will be living in the Texas Triangle. As those residents look to put down roots and become homeowners, they’ll face a dearth of homes for sale in the most affordable price ranges.

Data from the Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center shows that for markets in the Texas Triangle — Austin, Round Rock, Bryan, College Station, Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Killeen, Temple, San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Waco — homes under $500,000 are increasingly more difficult to come by.

Home Prices across the Texas Triangle

This problem is particularly striking in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area. Price distribution data from the Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center shows that homes under $400,000 made up only about 25% of home sales in the Austin-Round Rock area in 2022. Homes sold between $150,000 and $250,000 accounted for only 1.5% of total sales.

Home Prices in the Austin-Round Rock MSA

Changes on the horizon

Thanks to a resolution proposed by Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool, it might soon be a lot easier to get new and diverse housing built in the capital city. The biggest components of the resolution recommend the city:

  • Lower the minimum lot size in single family zones to 2,500 square feet;
  • Allow three units per lot in single family zones; and
  • Adjust setback, height, impervious cover and floor-to-area ratio restrictions.

These proposed changes to Austin’s land code come as a decade-long housing affordability crisis has priced out many Austin families.

If implemented properly, the resolution would allow for the proliferation of cottages, duplexes, row homes, and other missing middle housing to provide more accessible options to middle class Austinites. It would also transform Austin into a leader of the pro-housing movement. Perhaps other Texas cities could follow suit.

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