CodeNEXT, the City of Austin’s initiative to revise the outdated Land Development Code, was identified as one of the top priorities in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan when that plan was adopted in 2012. But four years later, the CodeNEXT process is still winding its way toward a draft, and now several Austin organizations are calling for the City to get the process back on track.
“The project is two years behind schedule, hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget and in jeopardy of collapsing under its own weight,” wrote Ward Tisdale, president of the Real Estate Council of Austin, in a recent RECA blog. “The voices have been heard; the data has been collected; and the reports have been written. Now, it’s time to get to work and ensure a draft of the new code is released in January 2017, the latest date promised by the city.”
RECA is part of a coalition that held a press conference in June asking for the City to stick to that January timeline for a draft. Other members of the coalition included AURA, the Austin Apartment Association, the Austin Board of Realtors, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Evolve Austin, and the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin.
The wait means that Austin residents and the commercial real estate community have spent a lot of time debating and addressing issues like accessory dwelling units and short-term rentals, Tisdale says, which could have been addressed more efficiently under a revised code.
The coalition is calling for the City to take a close look at affordability in the draft, including limited or no specific regulations on quantity, density, or lot sizes for affordable housing options. The new code should also provide incentives for below-market housing, revisit compatibility rules, and write changes directly into the code so that myriad appendices and additions don’t convolute the new code, the coalition has said.
The City is currently releasing what it calls prescription papers – three out of four have been released to date – that outline recommendations for topics that the new Land Development Code can address. RECA and others in the coalition have said that the time going toward those papers would be better spent working on a draft.
“They need to release something now, so people can see what they are doing. Because all the consultants have ever done is talk in jargon, and the staff has given us nothing concrete to chew on,” Austin Neighborhoods Council President Mary Ingle told the Austin Monitor. “This is a waste of time. People want to see something concrete, and I think Ward and I could agree that the prescription papers are really ridiculous.”
BuildingATX will bring you the latest updates as the CodeNEXT process continues.