Austin City Council approves HOME initiative after full day of public comment

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — After nearly 12 hours of public comment, Austin City Council members approved the HOME initiative late Thursday night. The initiative is intended to create more housing options for Austinites.

The initiative was brought forward by Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool of District 7, who thanked her colleagues on their passing of the plan shortly before midnight.

“It was an extraordinary effort and I thank you all, thank you all. My thanks to all the City staff who have contributed to the HOME effort,” she said.

But hundreds of Austinites showed up at City Hall Thursday to speak against the initiative, and expressed concerns that developers would demolish existing single-family homes and replace them with expensive townhomes.

“My decision, again, is rooted in the genuine concerns raised by constituents,” Council Member Mackenzie Kelly said. Her and Council Member Alison Alter voted no.

Council members thanked the huge number of speakers who showed up Thursday and said many of those community members were respectful and cared about their city. It was a sentiment shared by those who attended.

“I’m on one side, I think this is a good proposal and we need more of these. But there are many on the other side and I respect their opinion,” said Ward Tisdale, a long-time Austinite for HOME.

Other community members were drawn to City Hall for the first time Thursday, many speaking against the HOME initiative.

“I felt really validated for my opinion and I hope that members of the council can actually take into consideration the issue at hand,” said Ludwig Costa, who showed up to speak against HOME.

HOME, an acronym for Home Options for Middle-income Empowerment, is a series of proposed changes to Austin’s land development code — and other incentives for creating or preserving housing. It has several elements to it, and there are expected to be additional phases moving forward.

The following are the proposed changes in phase one:

  • Three units: Bumping the number of units “by right” allowed on a single-family lot to three
  • Tiny Homes: Patching loopholes in Austin’s land development code to more easily allow for tiny homes to be considered a unit on a lot zoned as single-family
  • Preserving existing homes: Part of the HOME initiative creates a bonus program that encourages the preservation of houses already on lots
  • House Size Limits: Setting “size constraints” to force smaller units

In phase two, additional changes could be brought forward such as lot size. Read more about HOME here.

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