'Most of us will have to sell': Austin City Council approves changes to single-family lot zoning

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool was the center of attention at Thursday's City Council meeting.

A proposal to allow for the subdivision of single-family lots, which Pool spearheaded, was greeted with over five hours of public testimony some very much in support of the changes, and some adamantly against, calling it a "lifestyle devastation."

"This is a let them eat cake policy," one Austin resident said. "This is for those who can take advantage because the land value will have skyrocketed. Most of us will have to sell and we'll have to sell to a developer not a family."

Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool during a May 2, 2023, city meeting.
Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool during a May 2, 2023, city meeting.

For nearly three hours, a wave of residents proclaimed their displeasure and disgust with the proposal. But the tide seemed to turn after that, with many supportive voices from a generally younger demographic, seemingly balancing it out.

The Austin City Council on Thursday gave the initial stamp of approval for the subdivision of single-family lots through a decrease of the current 5,750 square feet minimum to 2,500 square feet.

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"It does not eliminate single-family zoning districts. It does not change the zoning on anyone's property. It does not force a reduction of existing single-family lots," Pool said on Thursday. "It does not make any changes today.

"What it does do is initiates code amendments and a process that includes staff analysis and recommendations," Pool said.

The proposal would also allow for more housing units to be developed per lot to promote "attainable and diverse housing opportunities for residents of all income levels," the proposal draft reads, something several residents agreed with.

“I support (the zoning item) ... for the fact that we need affordable housing to bring density and better public transportation so we can get closer to the goal of a 10-minute city,” one resident said.

"Assuming sound environmental and safety constraints, people ought to be able to use their land as they like," a homeowner said. "This is Texas after all."

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One UT Austin student noted that "there has not been a single young person who has spoken in opposition to item 126," and said "I plan to continue my education to a doctoral level, and I would prefer for my future to be taken into consideration so I did not have to live with my parents again."

The proposal passed in a 9-2 vote. Council Members Alison Alter and Mackenzie Kelly voted no on the proposal.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Austin City Council approves changes to single-family lot zoning