ETOD and Compatibility

Austin City Council is proposing three measures to improve access to housing in Austin by creating more housing; particularly near transit. Learn what they are and get involved to help get them passed!

What’s Happening?

Austin City Council is proposing three measures to improve access to housing in Austin by creating more housing; particularly near transit.

Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD) Overlay: Phase 1

Equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD) works to ensure that people of all incomes experience the benefits of dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development near train and bus stops.

The proposed ETOD overlay aims to zone for dense, mixed-use, walkable development within a half mile of the future Project Connect light rail line, while providing incentives to build more affordable housing (12-15% affordable) and protect existing affordable housing and businesses. This new zoning also seeks to discourage car-oriented development in the ETOD area (e.g. gas stations, car washes). Any new building constructed as a result of this proposal can only be done so on land that is already zoned for multifamily or commercial use. It does not affect single-family zoned properties.

Under our current land use policies few Austinites can walk or bike to transit. This limited accessibility then leads to less ridership, less transit funding, and worsened service. Transit struggles in low density, car-dependent environments. ETOD turns that vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle where people of all incomes, ages, and backgrounds are able to live near transit; and in this immediate case near the coming light rail of Project Connect.

The more people living near these new stations, the more people that can conveniently use it in their daily lives. This creates a feedback loop of increasing ridership, funding, and public support for future transit expansion. It also means reduced traffic in the areas along the light rail, reduced environmental pollution, and fewer traffic injuries and deaths. Such zoning changes would also help the city obtain federal grants for Project Connect, thereby ensuring its success.

Removing “Compatibility” Restrictions

In addition to ETOD, there is a proposal for changing the “compatibility” rules in the city. This restriction limits the height of buildings near single-family homes. “Near” in this case is not actually a small distance. To be specific, a 60 foot tall apartment building has to be at least 300 feet away from every 35 foot tall single-family home in Austin. Today compatibility affects housing out to 540 feet, or 1.5 football fields.

These rules imply that those who live in multifamily homes are incompatible with those who live in single-family homes. They are based on old, prejudiced, and discriminatory attitudes that say those living in apartments and condos are not welcome near the majority of the city of Austin. Austin is predominantly single-family homes.

In order to change this, city staff is proposing that those height limits only apply within a 75 foot distance from a single-family home. City staff estimates that 63,000 more homes could be built as a result of these policy improvements.

A diagram comparing the prior compatibility restrictions which extended up to 540 feet from Single Family homes and the new restrictions which extend up to 75 feet from Single Family homes

Current vs. Proposed compatibility restrictions. Source: City of Austin via

HOME Phase 2

HOME Phase 1 was a very large victory that now allows up to 3 homes to be built on a single lot. Creating more housing for more people.

The HOME Phase 2 proposal is a follow-up which would lower the minimum lot size for single-family homes to a minimum of 2,000 square feet. These much more appropriately sized lots would be able to build one house each. This creates more flexibility when creating new housing. Existing residents would be able to sell parts of their large lots and create housing without affecting their current home. While new home buyers would be able to own their home outright and not have to split their ownership and control over their property with an HOA.

Help Get These Initiatives Passed!

These changes will have a massively positive impact on the growth, affordability, and sustainability of our cities.

There will be several chances to speak in support of these initiatives at City Hall:

  • Thursday, April 11 (starting at 9 am): Joint Planning Commission and City Council Meeting
  • Tuesday, April 23 (starting at 4 pm): Planning Commission Meeting
  • Tuesday, April 30 (starting at 4 pm): Planning Commission Meeting
  • Thursday, May 16 (starting at 10 am): City Council Meeting

For the City Council meetings in bold the sign-ups open the Monday before the meeting; on April 8th and May 13th respectively. Registration closes on Wednesdays at 12PM. You can learn more about the process on the City Council sign-up page.

You can sign up to speak either remote (via phone), in person, or simply register your support on the sign-up page without speaking. Set these sign-up dates in your phone so you don’t forget.

When signing up for these meetings you’ll be asked to pick an agenda item. These will be listed on the sign-up page but for special meetings like these they’re typically the only items on the agenda.