Austin/ Real Estate & Development
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Published on May 15, 2024
Austin's HOME Phase 2 Faces Backlash as Council Vote Looms, Neighborhood Identity vs. Housing DensitySource: Google Street View

As Austin City Council gears up to vote on the contentious HOME Phase 2 initiative, vocal opposition from community groups and local leaders is putting pressure on the lawmakers to reconsider, or at least modify, the proposed amendments to the city's Land Development Code. The code reform, poised to reduce minimum lot sizes and adjust compatibility standards citywide, is at the heart of a debate between creating more housing options and safeguarding neighborhood identities.

The major talking point – the potential to increase housing density on smaller lots – is being challenged by those who believe it will not actually provide the promised affordable housing and may further displace residents. Critics at a recent rally decried the plans as a threat to East Austin neighborhoods, with some accusing the city of wielding policy changes like a "machete instead of a scalpel," according to CBS Austin.

Yet, proponents of the initiative argue that the reform is essential to reverse the adverse effects of the current land use code on gentrification and displacement. As per the Austin Monitor, Council Member Chito Vela emphasized that "the status quo in Austin has been a disaster for gentrification and displacement." He further stated that small lots "are better for low-income families" and are fundamental in granting them "a shot at the American dream of owning a home."

Nevertheless, concerns over potential safety issues in Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) areas were raised during a city council work session. Council Member Alison Alter expressed doubts about HOME 2's impact on these regions, questioning whether the proposed rules take sufficient precautions against fire risks. The dialogue highlighted possible scenarios of increased housing leading to emergency response challenges, with a bottleneck effect as described by an engineer from the Fire Marshal’s Office.

Tensions escalated as community leaders gathered outside City Hall to demand strong anti-displacement measures. A joint press conference saw figures like NAACP leader Nelson Linder and mayoral candidate Carmen Llanes Pulido voice their opposition. They called on the council to either reject the proposed amendments or implement an equity/anti-displacement overlay to protect vulnerable communities, as reported by Austin Monitor.

Austin-Real Estate & Development