- CodeNEXT supporters claim Austin’s land development code is limiting the supply of homes, but City Hall has been approving new housing at a higher annual rate than any other community in the nation
- Austin issues permits for new housing units at a rate three times the national average and two-and-a-half times higher than Houston, a city famous for its lack of zoning
- Former City of Austin Demographer Ryan Robinson has labeled assertions that Austin’s code is constraining housing production a “false narrative”
You’ve heard it repeated for years: Austin’s supply of new housing is severely constricted, and the blame rests with our community’s “outdated” land development code.
Land developers and their allies in City Hall used the line to promote their failed CodeNEXT initiative and the “transition zone” plan that followed. Now they’ve trotted out the same argument to launch what looks like another rezoning attempt:
[Austin Mayor Steve Adler] thinks the city cannot afford to work any longer under the current code, which he describes as “out-of-date” and “bad.”
Since 1984, we have literally not had a code that was intended to produce much housing … I’m hoping that’s going to change because it has to.
— Scott Turner
Developer, Riverside Homes LLC
Austin Business Journal, June 14, 2021
They’re wrong. According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Austin issues more permits for new homes than any other American city, when that figure is measured as a proportion of existing housing stock.
Austin has led the nation for five years running, with a housing-approval rate roughly three times as high as the U.S. average. We’re beating booming communities like Seattle, Denver, Washington, D.C., and even Houston, a city famous for its lack of zoning regulations.
The City of Austin leads the nation in the approval of new homes, measured as a percentage of the community’s existing housing stock. SOURCES: Shelterforce, State of the Cities Data Systems (SOCDS), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
These findings align completely with a conclusion former City of Austin Demographer Ryan Robinson drew in early 2020:
The amount of multifamily housing under construction right now with the City of Austin is simply phenomenal—a phenomenon running orthogonal to the false narrative that housing production within the City is somehow severely constrained by the City’s land development code.
— Ryan Robinson
Former Demographer, City of Austin
Q419 Multifamily Housing Report
Robinson’s findings were apparently too much for his superiors to take: As reported by The Austin Chronicle and others, city officials censored the demographer’s language soon after his report went public. Sadly, the censored version is still visible on the city’s website today.
Austin’s land development code may not be impeding housing supply, but that doesn’t mean the local homebuilding industry isn’t facing significant growth-related limitations right now. Robinson hints at some of them in his report, and we’ll explore them in more depth in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
For more information on Austin’s housing supply, check out “MYTH: Austin’s Current Land Development Code Is Constraining Development,” available on Community Not Commodity’s Resources page.