City of Austin Development Regulations Making Austin More Expensive to Live

 Austin is often ranked as one of the best and hippest cities with the fittest people, the hottest business market, and the most educated populace. But Austin is rapidly becoming a place where only the wealthiest can afford a house.

Median Home Prices in Texas:

Austin $355,000
Dallas $280,000
Houston $212,000
Ft Worth $185,000
San Antonio $174,000

In addition property owners Austin are having the hardest time getting approval to develop or improve their properties. The numerous regulations and fees imposed by the city of Austin add to the cost of development making it challenging to achieve affordability. 

Here is one example: The city of Austin has more parkland per capita than Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, or San Antonio which is a good thing. However the city of Austin is requiring more parkland dedication and want the cost of park improvements to be paid by developers. That being said the city does not properly maintain the parks it already owns. 

Bottom line is that the city of Austin rules and regulations are so strict that development is costly, time consuming, and unpredictable………….and they know this as they have paid for numerous studies that confirm Austin is on the wrong tract. Austin is controlled by special interest groups that look out for themselves and not the city as a whole. 

The 2016 City Auditor’s Report (paid for by the city of Austin)

  • Overly complex land use regulations
  • Minimum site area requirements for multifamily housing
  • Limits on “granny” units behind houses
  • Overly restrictive neighborhood plans
  • Excessive parking requirements

How can we ever achieve a denser more affordable city with these constantly changing requirements?

The Zucker Report (also paid for by the city of Austin)

The Zucker report found that property owners using the city of Austin’s planning department are less satisfied than any other city studied in the United States because Austin’s regulations are unreasonably strict and inconsistently imposed. 

  • 66% said the department wasn’t as fair or practical in applying rules as other cities
  • 82% said the review process is unnecessarily cumbersome or complex
  • 72% said the review services weren’t completed by the date promised

A property owner faces multiple layers of approval. The developer has to hire an army of consultants (architects, arborists, engineers, lawyers, land planners, traffic consultants, environmental consultants, permit expeditors, etc) who spend many hours in hearings with the city. And neighborhood groups often attempt to thwart every aspect of a proposed development. These costs are passed on to Austin office space tenants, home buyers, and renters increasing the cost of living. The city sends residential and Austin commercial real estate developers through a confusing trail that may include the Environmental, planning, or zoning and platting commissions all with public hearings. Austin’s active and vocal special interest groups weigh in at each step. Then after months of hearings projects go to the city council where individual members tack on more conditions adding to the costs. It’s easy to see why cost effective development is virtually impossible. Unfortunately Austin has a national reputation of being anti growth. And more studies are showing that Austin’s over reaching regulations and micro management are major factors in creating a paralyzed and unafordable housing economy.

People are moving to Austin but where where they live?

The median price for a house in Austin is 26.78% more expensive than Dallas. 83% more expensive than Fort Worth. 101% more expensive than just 80 miles away than in San Antonio

It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next 3, 5, 10 years.

If you have any questions feel free to give us a call

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