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Another crack at density bonuses …

Friday, August 19, 2016 by Jack Craver

City Council was nearly unanimous in its support for a resolution that would direct city staff to craft a recommendation for developing a new density bonus on Thursday. Earlier this year, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo ditched a density bonus proposal that she had requested from staff that she and others agreed would not accomplish much. On Thursday, Tovo once again reiterated her support for developing a program that would promote more affordable housing, but she hinted that she was not convinced she would be able to support whatever emerged from the staff recommendation. Council’s most prolific citizen communicator, David King, who is active in the Austin Neighborhoods Council, also voiced skepticism, saying that whatever “community benefits” the city gives up to developers in exchange for affordable housing might not be worth it. He also worried about big buildings being constructed next to single-family homes. “Why is it only about high-density apartments that are tiny?” he asked. Council Member Don Zimmerman suggested that he would ultimately oppose whatever ordinance is crafted by staff but that he would support directing staff to develop one anyway. The motion passed 10-0-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair abstaining. The Planning Commission also voted earlier this month to direct staff to propose code changes that would allow the city to reward additional density to developments in exchange for affordable housing. Currently the city’s SMART housing program (the acronym stands for safe, mixed-income, accessible, reasonably priced, and transit-oriented) is restricted to parcels that were previously undeveloped.

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