Public land for public good: leveraging city-owned property to create affordable housing in Austin, Texas

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In addition to reforming land use regulations, bolstering subsidies for affordable housing, and stabilizing rental housing, governments at all levels in the U.S. must devote greater attention and resources to underlooked policies to solve the housing crisis. One such policy is the comprehensive management and redevelopment of vacant or underutilized public land to create affordable housing. This Professional Report offers a case study of how the City of Austin manages and redevelops the land it owns, shows the potential of city-owned land in Austin to create affordable housing, and recommends policy and process improvements to maximize public benefits on city-owned land. This report finds that while increased political and financial support has led to substantial progress towards building more affordable housing on city-owned land, the City of Austin still fails to plan comprehensively for the land it owns and even lacks a basic understanding of its land assets. This report also estimates that the city of Austin holds over 10,000 acres of developable land. Even if the city only develops a small percentage of this land, it could build tens of thousands of housing units, many of them affordable, along with other important community benefits like affordable day care centers, arts and culture venues, or retail space for small, locally-owned businesses. If the City of Austin adopts the planning practices, process improvements and policies recommended in this report, the city would be well-positioned to leverage its underutilized land to achieve its affordable housing production goals.


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