This Saturday June 2nd from 10 am-4 pm at City Hall will be the last time the general public will be able to comment on CodeNEXT, the once-in-a-generation rewriting of the land development code. The process that will literally put housing co-ops on the map (read earlier blog posts about this here) and determine where you can build future co-op housing. Please come if you are able!
The CodeNEXT process was started in 2012 and ACBA has been involved in this campaign since the summer of 2015 and we have made steady progress. We advocated for a unique definition for housing co-ops so that we would not become collateral damage in the fight to restrict dorms, Greek houses, boarding homes and half-way houses and we could push for more rights for co-ops.
In CodeNEXT’s first draft, released in early 2017 contained a definition. We continue to push for an improved definition as this one only helps a minority of current co-ops, but it was a great early win.
A volunteer group of appointed citizens known as the Code Advisory Group made their final recommendation in mid 2017 recommended improving the definition, changing occupancy limits for co-ops from 4 or 6 unrelated adults per unit to 2 per bedroom, consideration of lowered parking limits for co-ops and to include a cottage court that allowed for one big main house and several smaller houses.
Little changed until the Draft 3 addendum released in early 2018 changed parking limits for co-ops from 1 parking spot plus 1 per two bedrooms to 1 parking spot plus 1 per four bedrooms.
Most recently the Planning Commission voted to allow Cooperative Housing by right in areas zoned R3 “Areas that are accessible to mixed use and main street zones by walking or biking” and sites that allow more dense development. In that conversation (you can view the half hour midnight conversation on Youtube) City staff admitted that they were not prepared to answer any questions about co-ops, were unfamiliar with the current definition in the code, or our proposed definition. They would not be ready for about a week. At that point they recommended deleting co-ops from the code (bad) and to add a cottage court with one dwelling unit and multiple sleeping units (good, but very wonky.)
This could very well be a tipping point for cooperative housing in Austin. Planning Commission Patricia Seeger told me that she thought “cooperative housing used to be underground and now it is mainstream.” It is now gaining acknowledgment as an extremely attractive model for housing people affordably. Commissioner Greg Anderson, who works as Development Director for Habitat for Humanity in Austin says that of Habitat in New York City “they are doing straight up co-ops. It is the best tool that they have.”
I hope you can come to City Hall on Saturday, tell everybody why co-ops are important to you and help us tip co-ops into the mainstream.