- Land developers and their allies in City Hall claim Austin is dominated by single-family zoning
- In reality, a substantial majority of Austin’s residential properties are zoned for more than one home
- According to data from The New York Times, single-family zoning is used to a much greater degree in cities like Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Jose
For years, land developers and their surrogates have claimed Austin is “dominated” by single-family zoning and argued for its removal through urban densification plans like CodeNEXT:
Two forms of housing dominate Austin: Single-family houses and large apartment buildings. This lack of housing variety does not reflect Austin’s diversity and contributes to growing affordability issues.
— Connor Harris
Fellow, Manhattan Institute
Austin Business Journal, July 16, 2021
That’s a myth! In reality, fewer than half of Austin’s residential properties are zoned for only one home—and our community utilizes single-family zoning at levels far below those in comparable cities across the nation.
In Austin, single-family zoning is defined as zoning that allows only one house on a given property. It is designated as either “SF-2” or “SF-1” under the city’s zoning code. According to an analysis of City of Austin data, roughly 41% of the residential land in our community is zoned this way. The other 59% is zoned for duplexes, townhomes, apartments, and other forms of multiple housing.
Community Not Commodity compared the amount of single-family zoning in Austin to other major cities, based on an analysis by The New York Times. Here is what we found:
The numbers don’t lie: When it comes to its level of single-family zoning, Austin has more in common with cities like New York or Washington, D.C. than communities like Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, or San Jose.
In case there’s any doubt, the following maps clearly show how multi-home zoning predominates in Austin. The first displays areas zoned only for single-family homes (in pink), and the second displays multi-home properties (in light and dark green):
Earlier this year, Mayor Steve Adler announced the city would soon restart the revision of our land code, albeit in a piecemeal way. This time, let’s hope local officials are guided by facts about Austin’s single-family zoning—not misinformation.
We’ll dispel more myths about zoning and Austin’s land development code in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
For a more detailed discussion, check out “MYTH: Austin Is a City of Single-Family-Only Zoning,” available on Community Not Commodity’s Resources page.