Austin's Affordability Hinges on Code, Says Real Estate Council

Austin needs at least 100,000 new housing units in the next 10 years.

That's according to the Real Estate Council of Austin.

But the group says that growth isn't possible unless the city overhauls its own procedures.

On Wednesday, the Real Estate Council of Austin, or RECA, released its latest report on the city's battle with affordability.

The report says the biggest problem is a culture of red tape and neighborhood opposition.

The group believes Austin is losing ground in affordability efforts.

It largely puts the blame on what it calls the city's anti-development policies, and a culture of saying "no."

"The point we try to make is if you look at Austin's history since the 1840s, when we were founded, we double in population every 25 years," said Ward Tisdale with the Real Estate Council of Austin. "And in 2040, we're going to double again. So we're going to have 4 million people in this area. So the argument shouldn't be to grow or not to grow. That's just a fact. The argument and the discussion should be how do we grow?"

On a positive note, the group says it's optimistic about the changes the city's code revamp will bring.

CodeNEXT was launched in 2013 in an effort to revise city development codes to allow for more dense, connected communities.

Those revised set of development codes are expected to be adopted sometime next summer.

"Time is money in the development process, so to the extent that a new code can speed up the process, make it more efficient, make it more transparent, make it more predictable, that should have an effect on affordability," said Jim Robertson with the City of Austin.

RECA hopes CodeNEXT will eventually open up all neighborhoods for redevelopment, particularly increasing density in areas with better access to transit.

"Code can have big effect in trying to encourage the creation of new housing opportunities near transit, so that people are not quite as dependent on the very expensive individual car," said Robertson.

But for any of it to work, Tisdale says Austinites are going to have to embrace change.

"If you could live in the past, maybe a lot of people would. But you simply can't," he said.

His argument?

In a city that only keeps growing, affordability comes at a cost -- change.

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