A recommendation to allow an increase in the area of three planned downtown towers has prompted a proposal to revisit a city program that offers developers density bonuses tied to affordable housing.
The three projects—9092 Rainey, 84 East, and the River Street Residences—are all in the Rainey Street neighborhood, which gets its own special section in the city’s 2014 downtown density ordinance. Under the current ordinance, the Austin City Council can approve increases in the allowed floor-to-area ratio of buildings in the neighborhood (currently capped at 15:1) in exchange for community benefits such as including residences that meet affordability standards onsite or donating a fee-in-lieu to the city’s affordable housing trust fund.
The residential building projects, which have three separate developers, seek increased FAR of up to 32:1 (for a new building currently called 9092 Rainey). Together, the three buildings would pay fees-in-lieu of a little under $3.3 million and create around 1,140 new condominiums. Two of the projects—84 East and 9092 Rainey—would create some affordable housing space on their sites as well.
The city’s Planning Commission has approved the recommendations for FAR increases in all three cases, and the City Council passed the proposals on first reading in March, with Councilmember Kathie Tovo expressing concerns about neighborhood infrastructure and the opinion that the contributions to affordable housing should be greater if the developers are granted the density bonuses.
Tovo, who represents the council district that includes most of downtown, is now moving to revisit the community benefits required for downtown and Rainey under the current ordinance, placing a resolution to that effect on Thursday’s meeting agenda. Co-sponsored by councilmembers Alison Alter, Vanessa Fuentes, and Pio Renteria, the resolution would if passed remove a section of the current downtown density ordinance and direct the city manager to present proposed revisions to both Rainey and downtown density ordinances to the council on April 22. It also calls for removing from different sections in the development code and putting them all in the city fee schedule.
Separate items approving density bonuses for the three specific buildings currently in the works in Rainey are also the council’s agenda this week.