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Breaking down the HOME Initiative

Austin City Council is currently considering a move to increase density on single-family lots in Austin.

The front of Austin's downtown City Hall

Austin City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the HOME Initiative on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Photo by ATXtoday

Austin’s land development code may be about to get a ADU-sized shake-up.

Austin City Council will soon consider the first phase of the HOME Initiative, a multi-part adjustment to housing regulations in the Capital City.

The effort — fully titled Home Options for Middle-income Empowerment — aims to increase housing supply and decrease home costs. Here’s what to know.

First, the context

It all comes down to one thing: affordability.

Research from the Austin Board of Realtors found that the city is short ~211,000 homes that are affordable enough for a four-person household earning 80% of the median income to buy. Non-white Austinites face even sharper shortages.

The city hasn’t seen a major code overhaul since the 1980s — and some advocates hope density will play a major role in bringing down housing costs.

A graph showing the median home price from April 2017 to October 2023.

The median home price in October 2023 was $435,000.

Graphic by ATXtoday, data from Austin Board of Realtors

What would it do?

The first phase of the HOME Initiative centers on:

  • Increasing the maximum number of units on most single-family lots to three, compared to the one or two currently allowed
  • Removing restrictions on the number of occupants living in single-family homes

Proponents hope these changes would result in smaller, more affordable homes for middle-income households and give homeowners more options for inter-generational living.
City Council may take up the second phase of the initiative in the spring. This phase would reduce minimum lot size requirements to 2,500 sqft for most single-family properties, compared to the 5,000-sqft size currently required.

Where it’s at

The Planning Commission recommended HOME Initiative’s first phase with some minor amendments, such as incentivizing preserving older homes, last week.

The next step is turning this policy into city code. Austin City Council will hold a public hearing on Thursday, Dec. 7, and then take action on the final ordinance.

Submit your comments on or questions about the HOME Initiative online.

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