‘Affordability Unlocked’ Boosts Austin’s Affordable Housing Production

A 2019 program has created new housing at a faster rate than other city programs.

1 minute read

September 26, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View of Austin, Texas skyline at dusk with Colorado River and bridge in foreground

Sean Pavone / Austin, Texas

A “game-changing” Austin city program dubbed Affordability Unlocked has led to significant growth in affordable housing production in the city, reports Audrey McGlinchy for KUT.

“According to a recent report by the Urban Institute, Affordability Unlocked has helped developers build affordable housing at a faster pace than any other city program.” Under Affordability Unlocked, developers have built over 1,500 homes per year. That number was around 900 prior to the program’s launch.

The program works in part by letting developers bypass certain public hearing processes, which has angered some local residents. A group of homeowners sued the city in 2019, saying permanent zoning changes require public input, and are now asking a judge to void Affordability Unlocked. 

Meanwhile, “Supporters of Affordability Unlocked say the city does not have to notify property owners because waiving certain restrictions in exchange for affordable housing is not a permanent rezoning of a piece of land; it’s an opt-in program.” The future of the program could depend on a hearing scheduled for today.

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