The Case for Austin’s Transit-Oriented Development Fund

Growing Weirder, Texurban

Austin’s need for equitable transit-oriented development is apparent. TOD allows meaningful access to affordable, healthy lifestyles, yet our development regulations have created a perverted marketplace that does not provide these options for most people.

We can give more people affordable, multi-modal access to all the necessities and amenities of metropolitan life, along with all the benefits of dense urban development. As Austin’s population expands, that accessibility will play a key role in making the city sustainable, equitable, and affordable for all.

To ensure these policies are consistently and equitably pursued, we advocate for the establishment of a city-based Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Fund. Such funds have already been established in Denver, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, and San Diego, dedicating tens of millions of dollars to building sustainable neighborhoods for all.

Each TOD fund is a complex financial package designed to meet shortfalls in financing mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable urban environments. They are comprised of public housing funds, private philanthropic capital, and bank funding. The funds are designed to be available for private and nonprofit developers alike, but can only be accessed if developers include a certain level of affordable housing units, plan to build within walking distance of high-quality transit, and meet other community desires proscribed by the fund.

Austin’s ETOD Fund would be initiated by a dedication of working capital from a local foundation and a matching contribution from the City, which can then be leveraged to secure additional commitments from other foundations and private banking institutions.

A properly cultivated ETOD Fund would help provide Austinites with accessible, sustainable, and equitable habitat for years to come. Learn more in our full report:

Download the full report

GrowingWeirder_ETOD_Proposal (pdf)
Printable version: GrowingWeirder_ETOD_Proposal_Printable (pdf)


Growing Weirder is our initiative to advocate for equitable, sustainable regional growth through the two major planning decisions currently underway in the Austin region. The City of Austin’s land use and development code rewrite, CodeNEXT, will determine what proportion of the 700,000 newcomers over the next ten years will be allowed to live in the City of Austin. CAMPO’s 2045 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) will determine many aspects of the region’s future, including the possible conversion of up to 650 square miles of rural areas to sub-urban or urban.

Farm&City produced a number of reports taking an in-depth look at the different factors influenced by these broad decisions, with some surprising conclusions. This work provides direction for the planning efforts listed above: if it is more affordable to live in a more compact, connected city, equitable long-term decisions should work to provide meaningful options for living in such places.


Growing Weirder is made possible through the generous support of our sponsors: GreaterAustin Neighborhoods, Blazek & Vetterling, Impact Hub Austin, and My Brilliant City.

Environmental sustainability implications of Austin’s regional growth policies

Growing Weirder, Texurban

In the Austin region, we must reduce our metropolitan carbon emissions to play a responsible role in the 21st century world community. Unfortunately, many of our public policies continue to increase our carbon footprint – especially land use and transportation policies.

As we grow from two to four million, we have the opportunity to lower our carbon footprint significantly by allowing existing and new residents better options to live healthy, low-carbon lifestyles, by reducing car dependency.

Cutting the region’s vehicle miles traveled is a crucial element of climate responsibility, which will primarily be determined by our regional growth policies, especially CodeNEXT and the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan.

In addition, current zoning is responsible for many of Austin’s localized flooding problems. Passing a CodeNEXT that aggressively allows more people to live in the City of Austin would reduce future regional impervious surface.

Getting rid of exclusionary, environmentally destructive land development code is not a new experiment for the Austin region. The UNO provisions, which have allowed for extraordinary growth and dramatic improvements to the West Campus area should be replicated across the urban grid.

Download the full report

GrowingWeirder_Sustainability (pdf)
Printable version: GrowingWeirder_Sustainability_Printable (pdf)


Growing Weirder is our initiative to advocate for equitable, sustainable regional growth through the two major planning decisions currently underway in the Austin region. The City of Austin’s land use and development code rewrite, CodeNEXT, will determine what proportion of the 700,000 newcomers over the next ten years will be allowed to live in the City of Austin. CAMPO’s 2045 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) will determine many aspects of the region’s future, including the possible conversion of up to 650 square miles of rural areas to sub-urban or urban.

Farm&City produced a number of reports taking an in-depth look at the different factors influenced by these broad decisions, with some surprising conclusions. This work provides direction for the planning efforts listed above: if it is more affordable to live in a more compact, connected city, equitable long-term decisions should work to provide meaningful options for living in such places.


Growing Weirder is made possible through the generous support of our sponsors: GreaterAustin Neighborhoods, Blazek & Vetterling, Impact Hub Austin, and My Brilliant City.

Austin Considers Expanding Regressive Homestead Exemptions

Growing Weirder

Tomorrow, Austin City Council will vote on a proposal to cut next year’s revenue by $5 million by increasing the city’s property tax homestead exemption from 8% to 10%, a reduction in taxes for the minority of city residents who own homes.

While affordability is a major concern that city council can address through legislation, homestead exemptions are not the best approach. Most Austinites are renters, including most low-income residents. Homestead exemptions do not benefit renters and might actually increase the property taxes they will shoulder through their rent or will deprive the city of funds for civic services for those who need them most.

A policy brief from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy details the regressive nature of percentage-based property taxes. Restrictions from the state legislature limit what the City of Austin can do with respect to property taxes, but the city has a variety of tools available to positively affect affordability. The outcomes and regressive nature of the proposed homestead exemption are well-understood and uncontroversial, so it is difficult to understand why elected officials would pursue an ineffectual, self-limiting policy.

If members of Austin City Council are concerned with addressing affordability at this time, they can pass a CodeNEXT that effectively removes exclusionary policies that cause displacement and un-affordability, and follow that with a meaningful and well-focused affordable housing bond to establish mixed-income, equitable, transit-oriented communities.

Read the two page ITEP policy brief here. It contains a succinct explanation of property taxes and explains flat versus percentage-based exemptions.