Austin Land Development Code

Here's a map of the proposed changes!

This new land development code is a HUGE deal and will have a tremendous impact on our city for years to come. The land development code is the local legislation that defines what developers can and cannot build on parcels of land in Austin. If this code passes it will be the first time the City of Austin has passed a comprehensive overhaul for land development since 1984! Among other changes, the last time the code changed there was a massive boom in zoning that allowed for mutli-family housing. If you've ever wondered why so many Class B and C apartment complexes from the 1980s are around Austin, that's why!


"If you change the zoning, they will build it"
  • - Somebody, probably

Before we dive into what the new land development code entails, we should first examine the two main issues that the code is looking to mitigate:

  1. Affordability - Austin has become prohibitively expensive for many residents who work full-time jobs. And unfortunately, that trend is likely to worsen in the urban core. Using the basic theory of supply and demand, we know that more housing supply will lead to lower costs relative to the demand. Since we're expected to have the highest job growth of any major city in the U.S. over the next five years there will be plenty of demand! And making the city affordable is beneficial for stakeholders as well, although many don't realize it. The growth in Austin, mostly fueled by tech, has led to tremendous wealth creation for stakeholders in the city. And while theoretically the current landlords will be able to charge increasingly exorbitant rent if there is less supply, that's only true if the demand remains the same. Most of these tech companies lease their offices, and one of the main draws of Austin for tech companies is its affordability relative to other centers like SF, LA, NY, etc. If we lose the element of affordability we could lose the tech companies and everyone will be worse off.
  2. Transportation - As more people move to Austin we continue to experience more congestion on the road. The new code allows for density that is close to public transportation like buses, the metro rail, and walkable and bikeable streets. By getting more people close to multimodal transportation centers, we can get more people off the road and reduce congestion. Not only does this make our city more efficient which is great from an economic standpoint, but it's also environmentally friendly. There are studies that have shown other benefits of having a denser, connected, multimodal transit oriented city. People that live in denser cities are healthier, happier, and generally more fulfilled than those who live in suburban sprawls. Stop the sprawl, y'all! Despite what you might think, people like being around people. Denser cities also tend to be more innovative cities, as more serendipitous interactions lead to growth and innovation. Why do you think so many great ideas come out of universities? And again, if we don't fix our transportation problem and it continues to worsen we might lose the economic anchors that have made Austin such a prosperous city.

If you're ever bored and want to nerd out on why cities are great I recommend this book: Triumph Of The City


As for the land development code itself, it's pretty comprehensive and the current draft is 1,366 pages so we're not going to attempt to cover that here in detail. Generally speaking, there will be some unique opportunities for investment and development when/if the new land development code passes. Just like what we saw in the multifamily boom in the 1980s, whatever version of the new code is passed we are likely to see an explosion of new asset classes. There will again be some new land parcels that allow for mixed-use and multifamily, so we're going to see delivery of a lot of that type of product. But I think the biggest change to the Austin landscape is going to be the residential lots changing from SF3 which allows up to 2 units per standard lot to new zoning that will permit up to 6 residential units for certain lots. The SF3 lots that are getting upzoned are generally located next to multimodal transit and employment centers, creating more affordability and easing congestion. In addition, density bonuses will be offered to developers if a percentage of their units are designated income restricted units to provide more affordable housing. For more information on income restricted affordable housing see

To wrap things up, this new land development code is aiming to create a happier, healthier, more vibrant city that works for everyone.

Do You Have A Specific Question About The Code? We Can Help!

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