Texas legislator submits bill that could strip Austin of compatibility laws

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Republican state legislator has filed a bill that, if passed, would repeal some of the City of Austin’s interoperability laws. These laws limit the height of buildings when they are built near certain zoning, including single-family homes.

District 4 council member Chito Vela described the compatibility as a “force field” around some of the houses. The city of Austin has a sliding scale of height tolerance that extends 540 feet from single-family property, “which is a huge area,” Vela said.

The range is not in line with what other major cities in the state or even the country are doing, according to city officials. The bill, introduced by Senator Brian Hughes, would reduce the permitted radius to 50 feet in major Texas cities.

While Vela said he doesn’t think changes should be made at the state level, it’s something the Austin City Council is also pretty much looking to change.

“We have the strictest measure of compatibility to date and we need to align ourselves with other major cities,” he said.

Huge reason for this: Austin’s housing crisis. The council previously noted that allowing developers to build higher will allow them to build more units. Last month, the Council approved a measure that eased some of these restrictions on transport corridors.

Even then, the council noted that they had made a move, but not enough.

“I would also add that there is still a lot of work to be done in the land management code. I’ll eat my popcorn,” then-mayor Steve Adler said at his last city council meeting.

Meanwhile, some members of the community have raised concerns about the possibility of building taller buildings next to residential areas, saying it will “push people and families out of existing areas.”

Ultimately, Vela said the city needs places for people to live to deal with the housing crisis, and allowing developers to build allows them to build more.

“We really want to put housing on those [travel] corridors so that we can drop people from their vehicles to our soon-to-be-built light rail system, or to our quality bus lines, a project connecting bus lines that is also in development right now,” he said.

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