Innovation and affordability : strategies for including workforce housing in the Austin Innovation Zone
MetadataShow full item record
Existing literature on innovation districts and global case studies relate the importance of including housing opportunities in innovation district planning, including housing for employees. Innovation districts are dense and vibrant urban areas that provide opportunities for research institutions, technology firms, entrepreneurs, and local businesses to coexist in one space, creating economic growth and strengthening local institutions. The dense and mixed-use urban planning model used to define and design innovation districts requires creating a mix of opportunities for research, work, living, shopping, and entertainment. Former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Texas State Senator Kirk Watson created an Innovation District Advisory Group in 2013 to explore the idea of creating an innovation district in Austin. The establishment of the Dell Medical School, the redevelopment of the Central Health Brackenridge Campus, and the creation of the Dell Seton Medical Center in the northeast quadrant of Downtown Austin laid the foundation for establishing the Austin Innovation Zone in 2014. In March 2016, Senator Watson and Central Health announced the creation of a newly formed nonprofit, Capital City Innovation Inc., which will help drive the process of establishing the Zone and engaging local businesses. Planning for the Zone should further the vision and goals of the Downtown Austin Plan and create a dense and livable Downtown that includes various housing choices, including workforce housing. Workforce housing caters to households earning between 60 and 80 percent of the Area Median Income. Changing demographics and shifting housing preferences indicate workers prefer living close to work and in vibrant downtown settings. Employers are locating offices in downtowns to attract new employees and prefer that employees live close to work to increase productivity. Creative strategies are required to include rental workforce housing in the plans for the Austin Innovation Zone, as the case studies in this report show. To create workforce housing in the Zone, this report suggests conducting further research and a needs assessment, creating an Innovation Zone Density Bonus Program, revising the Land Development Code, creating a Downtown Workforce Housing Corporation, revising the S.M.A.R.T. Housing Program, streamlining the current permitting processes and providing options for expedited review.