Item 62

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Alison Alter
Posts: 155
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:52 pm

Item 62

Post by Alison Alter »

Dear Colleagues,

To save us time tomorrow, I would like to ask the sponsors of item 62 (the cost study) for clarification on a few things and raise some questions in the hopes of reaching consensus faster. I also want to offer some draft amendments.

1. Lines 93-94 of version two refers to “costs related to additional approvals or reviews”. Can you please provide examples of specific circumstances you have in mind with this language?

2. There may be affordability benefits (financial and otherwise) of preserving existing housing while we add gentle density. I am concerned that this study only captures cost /benefits of new construction without providing information about scenarios that include the preservation of an existing unit. Within your framework, how might we capture scenarios that allow us to understand the tradeoffs between preservation and demolition while we add additional units? This information seems like it would be helpful, particularly as we consider the merits of tools such as a preservation bonus.

3. Lines 84-85 of version 2 – states we should analyze the costs and associated time for “rezoning for Housing Model Types for which zoning entitlements are not prevalent within the Housing Submarket Model.” How exactly will this be done and how can we capture the variables? We know that in many zoning cases we have agents who do their job very well and engage with area stakeholders to arrive at consensus and others take a different approach that can often exacerbate tensions and prolong the approval process. Can we request the study show us the breadth of timelines, such as cases can take from x amount of time to y amount of time? The average may not tell the whole story.

4. In my view we need to continue to push for improvements to our permitting process and the time that it takes to secure permits. We all know that we have invested considerable resources in staffing, moving online, and the PDC. In my view, the process outlined in this study does not yet seem to go deep enough into the vagaries of the permitting process in ways that might lead to lasting improvements in service and effectiveness. I would like to see direction that the study include room for direct feedback from stakeholders on their experience with the permitting process so we can identify common experiences and potential recommendations for improvements and primary pain points. This component of the study should include a variety of stakeholder perspectives (i.e. large corporate developers, individual homeowners, small scale developers, etc). I would like for this to be included in this scope of work. If not, I want to flag that I am considering authoring a separate item to accomplish that.

5. I would still appreciate clarity on the working definition that staff or the authors are using for “submarket models”. Examples of similar scopes of work using that framework also would be helpful to provide context.

In addition to the thoughts above, I will have two suggested amendments for the author to consider (see below for the concepts). I intend to offer these two draft amendments tomorrow, but in addition I hope the sponsors can provide the requested clarification and where appropriate would consider identifying language they are comfortable with to accomplish what I’ve raised above. Please let me know if I should instead prepare my own language to bring forward as amendments.

Alter Amendment 1: If, and when, the study or staff identify potential options for cost reductions (lines 52-54), the Council directs the City Manager to provide information on the public benefits provided by any associated regulations and fees under consideration for changes. The City Manager should include detailed information on potential impacts to public infrastructure and the environment, including funding impacts on existing or unmet needs, for any proposed changes.

Alter Amendment 2 (draft): I am still drafting this one, but I want to find a way for the study to consider how to incorporate the fiscal and affordability impacts of our administrative rulemaking process.

Regards,
Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10
Lauren Hartnett
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed May 22, 2019 2:13 pm

Re: Item 62

Post by Lauren Hartnett »

On behalf of MPT Harper-Madison:

CM Alter,

I appreciate you taking the time to post your questions to the message board to allow us the opportunity to provide thorough responses to your questions.


1. "Lines 93-94 of version two refers to “costs related to additional approvals or reviews”. Can you please provide examples of specific circumstances you have in mind with this language?"

This was an attempt to provide a ‘catch-all’ for the fact that different parts of town have different regulations and approval processes that are unique just to them.

For example, Code requires projects along Hill Country Roadways – like Loop 360, RM 620, RM 2222, RM 2244, and Southwest Parkway – to have their site plans approved by the Zoning and Platting Commission, though city staff have already reviewed these site plans and confirmed that they comply with Code.

Another example is that the Downtown Density Bonus program requires projects to first appear at a Design Commission subcommittee and then at a Design Commission meeting for a non-binding recommendation, even though city staff already review and ultimately administratively approve those projects.

Those lines were a way to try to capture these types of differences, if possible.



2. "There may be affordability benefits (financial and otherwise) of preserving existing housing while we add gentle density. I am concerned that this study only captures cost /benefits of new construction without providing information about scenarios that include the preservation of an existing unit. Within your framework, how might we capture scenarios that allow us to understand the tradeoffs between preservation and demolition while we add additional units? This information seems like it would be helpful, particularly as we consider the merits of tools such as a preservation bonus."

We know that we have an affordability crisis today in which older housing stock is being torn down and replaced by new projects, many of which are large, expensive single-family homes or high-priced condos rather than more attainable housing types.

This resolution is intended to be a factfinding mission to help explain why that is. It is intended to look at the dynamics we are already facing in Austin today – not to propose specific policy changes that could change redevelopment pressures.

This resolution is meant to be only a factfinding mission to explain the outcomes we are seeing today in new construction – not to call for recommendations or policy prescriptions. As a result, I don’t know that this resolution is the best vehicle to study the effect of how different policy scenarios can impact demolition or preservation, because this resolution does not contemplate other policy scenarios – it is focused solely on explaining the outcomes we are getting today without any changes to the way we provide housing for Austinites.

However, if there is significant interest in trying to capture these dynamics in some way, then it may be worthwhile to incorporate a “current trajectory” summary for each submarket model that describes the housing types and estimated cost levels that would likely predominate within the next 50 years under the existing land use regulations.



3. "Lines 84-85 of version 2 – states we should analyze the costs and associated time for “rezoning for Housing Model Types for which zoning entitlements are not prevalent within the Housing Submarket Model.” How exactly will this be done and how can we capture the variables? We know that in many zoning cases we have agents who do their job very well and engage with area stakeholders to arrive at consensus and others take a different approach that can often exacerbate tensions and prolong the approval process. Can we request the study show us the breadth of timelines, such as cases can take from x amount of time to y amount of time? The average may not tell the whole story."

The intent is to capture a “typical” process, acknowledging that rezoning processes can vary widely. So, it would be appropriate to include amended direction that acknowledges this, such as providing these estimates as a range and/or specifying that outlier cases should be excluded from determination of a “typical” timeline (though they should be included in any discussion that is provided illustrating the breadth of cases).



4. "In my view we need to continue to push for improvements to our permitting process and the time that it takes to secure permits. We all know that we have invested considerable resources in staffing, moving online, and the PDC. In my view, the process outlined in this study does not yet seem to go deep enough into the vagaries of the permitting process in ways that might lead to lasting improvements in service and effectiveness. I would like to see direction that the study include room for direct feedback from stakeholders on their experience with the permitting process so we can identify common experiences and potential recommendations for improvements and primary pain points. This component of the study should include a variety of stakeholder perspectives (i.e. large corporate developers, individual homeowners, small scale developers, etc). I would like for this to be included in this scope of work. If not, I want to flag that I am considering authoring a separate item to accomplish that."

This would be a productive addition to the resolution. As noted above, this resolution is meant as a factfinding mission rather than for recommendations. In keeping with that, it may be most appropriate that any potential amendments be designed in a way to ask that those experiences, themes, and takeaways be summarized and presented rather than producing specific recommendations.



5. "I would still appreciate clarity on the working definition that staff or the authors are using for “submarket models”. Examples of similar scopes of work using that framework also would be helpful to provide context."

Including submarkets helps account for the fact that different parts of Austin are starting from different baselines and may be facing different pressures. The resolution is intended to allow the professionals to determine representative submarkets within Austin rather than predetermining that for them. However, there are a number of examples that can provide guidance, including the effort to model the impact of the Land Development Code revision (http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 003520.pdf – see Table 1 in particular) and the proposal to establish different ‘set-aside’ affordable housing requirements that varied by submarket figures for the previous draft Austin Housing Bonus Program (http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 001126.pdf– see Figure 1 in particular).

The Office of Real Estate Services may be able to provide additional information on Austin submarkets, as well.

Kind Regards,
Natasha
Policy Director
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