The 2022 Central Texas Housing Summit shed light on why affordable housing in Austin continues to be a problem: decades of old housing policies and a regulatory environment that creates a barrier for buyers and Central Texas real estate developers.
At the July 19 summit, Austin Board of Realtors CEO Emily Chenevert said local political leaders have not prioritized housing to the extent they need it.
“They have made it extremely difficult across the region to meet the unprecedented demand we are experiencing,” she said.
In an interview with Community Impact Journal, Chenevert talked about specific fees that impact developers. One of them, Parkland’s autograph fees, could double under a new proposal in the city of Austin’s budget.
“At the end of the day, we’re just looking for a balance,” she said. “How much efficiency can you gain in the department so that you don’t have to raise that fee to acquire the land we need to make this a happy, healthy community?
As more and more people move to Austin for jobs and new opportunities, the housing market continues to be a pressing issue for buyers and renters.
According to a report released earlier this month, development costs per unit for suburban areas exceed $18,000; the average for Texas metropolitan areas is $10,073. Development costs per unit for the infill developments are approximately $41,303; the average for Texas metropolitan areas is $14,401.
One of the costliest things in housing development is delays.
According to Renee Zahn, Greystar’s senior manager, her rental agency has just under 50,000 units under construction and another 45,000 awaiting permits. She said the clearance time takes about 14 to 20 months, so the timing of the projects “really makes it difficult.”
David Glenn, senior director of government affairs at the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, added that another important aspect is the availability of permits amid labor shortages within city management.
“As many people as we have out there swinging hammers and building houses, if there are no city staff to review these projects and approve them, we are still going to see delays,” he said. declared.
Glenn also touched on the impact of fees on developers and an ongoing problem with transparency when it comes to fee structures.
In an analysis of a 2019 tenant’s median income, nearly 9% of their income goes to expenses before labor and materials, he said. This number increases to 20% for infill-style projects.
“I think one of the interesting things is, you know, [as the] researcher whose job it was to track down those numbers day in and day out…you had a really hard time tracking those charges,” he said. “You contact the cities to check them out, and if the researcher, or PhD student can’t do it, what chance do we have as builders or even a mom and pop trying to build? »
Chenevert said Community Impact Journal that the old practice of keeping developers in the dark when it comes to affordability is directly correlated to affordable housing.
“I think the impact on consumers is one of affordability. When developers have certainty in the process, they can deliver a more affordable product in the end,” she said.
Despite the strains in the current housing market, Chenevert said she was hopeful for the future.
“We wouldn’t have difficult conversations about our housing needs if we didn’t have the demand and the economic development that we have here; so we are in an incredibly strong local economy,” she said. “We are blessed to be in this position.