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Rally against lawsuit that could undo Austin code changes aimed at affordability

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Roughly 50 people gathered outside of the Travis County Civil and Family Courts facility Monday to protest a lawsuit that could result in the overturning of several Land Development Code (LDC) changes aimed at affordability.

The lawsuit claims homeowners’ protest rights were violated, which was enough to overturn a previous overhaul of the LDC several years ago.

Though a hearing for the suit was scheduled for Monday according to court dockets, that hearing was postponed, according to Douglas Becker, the attorney representing homeowners against the city. There is no rescheduled date yet, he said.

  • Speakers at the "Rally for Housing" included Austin City Council Members Chito Vela and Zohaib Qadri, alongside Rep. Greg Casar
  • Attendees of a rally outside of Travis County Civil and Family Courts

The rally was in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this year against the City of Austin and city council members which asks the court to strike down changes made to Austin’s Land Development Code (LDC) including:

  • Vertical Mixed-Use II (VMU2): VMU allows for a combination of uses of a building. The VMU2 program loosens height requirements for more affordable units in certain parts of town
  • Residential in Commercial Property: Allows properties zoned as commercial to provide residential units
  • Compatibility standards: Compatibility deals with how tall buildings can be when they’re next to single-family homes. Council loosened those rules in some transit corridors late last year
  • Affordability Unlocked: A program that loosens LDC restrictions, like height caps and parking minimums, in exchange for affordable housing units. The lawsuit targets some of the applications of the program

“Affordability Unlocked has allowed for the creation of more than 8,200 units, including those still in development, of which more than 6,200 have affordability restrictions. The nature of Affordability Unlocked means that many more of these units have been built in high-opportunity and central Austin neighborhoods than would have been possible without the program,” the coalition said in a release.

The lawsuit is brought forward by the same group of homeowners — the Acuña plaintiffs — that filed, and won, a 2020 lawsuit which undid the first overhaul of the Land Development Code the city had done in more than three decades.

The homeowners argued the rewrite violated property owners’ protest rights.

“State law and fundamental fairness mandate that property owners — big and small — receive notice before their property is rezoned. The city must respect people’s property rights,” Becker said in a statement when the 2023 lawsuit was filed.

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