Austin

Opinion
3:16 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Op-Ed: Reducing Occupancy Limits Hurts Affordability Without Solving Problems

The Austin City Council will discuss occupancy limits for so-called "stealth dorms" tomorrow. Opponents say laws limiting housing occupancy could affect affordable housing in Austin.

Tomorrow, the Austin City Council takes up an ordinance that would lower occupancy limits on single-family zoned property. If approved, the maximum number of unrelated adults allowed to live together would fall from six to four. 

Supporters of the change is needed to stop the spread of so-called "stealth dorms" – neighborhood homes built or remodeled to hold as many renters as possible. Opponents say the change will hurt Austin's declining stock of affordable housing. 

Julie Montgomery is a Program Coordinator & Research Associate, Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP) at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at her alma mater UT Austin.

An occupancy limit reduction would make housing more expensive for all of us. It wouldn’t really solve the unfortunate quality of life problems experienced by some neighborhoods. And it is a costly distraction from the challenging work that policymakers, staff, and advocates need to do to address Austin’s housing shortage.

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Opinion
3:06 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Op-Ed: Austin Should Lower Occupancy Limits to Stop 'Stealth Dorms'

A city council resolution would lower occupancy limits at residences zoned for single-family use from six to four unrelated adults.
Credit Stop Stealth Dorms

This Thursday, the Austin City Council takes up an ordinance that would lower occupancy limits on single-family zoned property. If approved, the maximum number of unrelated adults allowed to live together would fall from six to four. 

Supporters of the change is needed to stop the spread of so-called "stealth dorms" – neighborhood homes built or remodeled to hold as many renters as possible. Opponents say the change will hurt Austin's declining stock of affordable housing.

For over 30 years, Mary Sanger has had a professional career in community organizing and electoral politics with a focus on environmental issues, and growth and development issues. 

What is before the City Council? In November, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution instructing the city manager to initiate a code amendment to reduce occupancy limits for structures on single-family zoned properties from six to four unrelated persons over the age of 18. The resolution covers both duplexes and houses. It does not apply to apartments or buildings not in single-family zoned areas.

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Halloween Floods
1:27 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Halloween Flooding Caused More than $30 Million in Damage to Insured Properties

Halloween floods caused $30M in damages to insured properties, but the Insurance Council of Texas say that may not include a lot of the damages in this particular flood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

A statewide insurance association says the Halloween flooding in Austin caused more than $30 million in insured damages to residential and commercial properties.

More than 580 insured homes and commercial properties in Hays, Travis and Caldwell counties were damaged by the floodwater, according to the figures released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Insurance Council of Texas

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SXSW 2014
10:15 am
Tue February 11, 2014

SXSW is Due $755K Worth of City Waivers & Payments - Here's a Breakdown

A street scene from SXSW 2013.

This year, the City of Austin is planning to cover over $750,000 worth of fees and services for South by Southwest . 

The proposal, which the Austin City Council is set to vote on Thursday, includes up to $274,320 worth of fee waivers – ranging from $30 sound permit fees to $89,000 worth of litter control services. Any fees already paid by SXSW would be reimbursed to the company. The city would also authorize payments for $481,324 worth of city services – the bulk of which is $340,000 in additional police costs.

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Winter Weather
4:46 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Another Round of Wintry Weather for Central Texas; AISD, UT and Others Delay Start Times

National Weather Service

A winter weather advisory is in effect for Central Texas, including Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, until 6:00 p.m. Tuesday. A winter weather advisory means periods of freezing rain, sleet, or even snow could cause some travel difficulties. We have about a 40% chance of a light wintry mix of precipitation during the morning. Read more for a list of delayed start times.

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Turning the Corner
9:16 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Men on Parole Search For Fresh Start in Austin's Dove Springs

A man who declined to be identified returns to the transitional housing facility known as The Cave.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's year-long series called Turning the Corner, which takes a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. 

KUT is documenting those efforts, the people trying to make a difference, the setbacks they face and how they work to overcome them. Listen to more stories here.

Dove Springs is the only neighborhood in Austin where you can find a parole office – one of the reasons more parolees end up in Southeast Austin than any other neighborhood.

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Winter Weather
12:37 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Weather Delays Have Austin Asking: Why Are We So Bad at Winter?

Students dressed warmly on the University of Texas campus today. UT, like most Austin-area schools and governments, started at 10 a.m. today due to inclement weather.
KUT News

Morning delays at Austin schools are receiving some ribbing online.

Austin ISD, the University of Texas, the City of Austin and dozens of other school districts and government agencies postponed start times until 10 a.m. this morning.

Some districts, like Round Rock ISD, also posted through explanations of their thinking in making the decision to issue late starts.

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Austin City Council
8:26 am
Thu February 6, 2014

City’s General Fund Ends Fiscal Year 2013 with $14 Million Surplus

Mayor Lee Leffingwell says a city budget surplus should go to "preserve … and potentially maintain the property tax rate, or even reduce it.”
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

This article is written by KUT's Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily). 

The City of Austin’s General Fund ended fiscal year 2013 with a $14.2 million surplus. That figure amounts to a roughly 1 percent variance from projections made by city staff.

Despite the positive figure, Austin’s Chief Financial Officer Elaine Hart told members of the Council’s Audit and Finance Committee Wednesday that management was not planning on coming forward with a mid-year budget adjustment.

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Austin
4:42 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

CVS Decision to Drop Cigarettes Reverberates in Austin

Today the CVS Pharmacy chain announced it would be dropping all tobacco sales from their retail locations. CVS has 25 locations in Austin.
flickr.com/blile59

On Wednesday, the CVS Pharmacy chain announced that on Oct. 1, all locations would cease selling cigarettes and tobacco products.

With nearly 13 percent of Austin adults calling themselves active smokers, the decision could have a lasting effect on the city.

The move was applauded by entities including the American Cancer Society and the White House. Dr. Philip Huang, medical director for Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, has similar praises for the pharmacy chain.

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Austin
2:13 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Why This Austin Professor's Living In a Dumpster For a Year

Jeff Wilson will be spending 2014 in a 33-square-foot dumpster in the name of sustainability.
Jeff Wilson

An Austin professor has survived the first night in his year-long plan to live in a dumpster.

Dr. Jeff Wilson – aka “Professor Dumpster” – is an environmental science professor at Huston-Tillotson University. He’s also the face of The Dumpster Project, an educational experiment that aims to transform a 33-square-foot trash dumpster into a fully sustainable space.

"There was no mint on the pillow," he says, "and it wasn't exactly the W, but I did stay warm."

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Politics
8:10 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Austin's Political Players Look to Gain Seats on New City Council

Austin's switch to geographic representation has groups traditionally locked out of City Hall eying seats on the council dais.

This article was co-produced as part of an ongoing City Hall reporting partnership between the Austin Monitor and KUT. Listen to the audio story broadcast on KUT in the player below. 

With single-member districts soon to become a reality, Austin City Council candidates are already lining up to crowd what promises to be a very full November ballot. Austin's political insiders and outsiders alike are trying to get a handle on an election that promises to shape the city for years to come.

Roger Borgelt is vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. He also served as co-chair of the Austinites for Geographic Representation – the group responsible for getting 10-1 on the ballot. He says that he is excited about the promise of more localized, neighborhood representation, as well as the possibility of conservatives (or at least fiscal conservatives) taking some of the 11 open City Council seats.

 

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Austin City Council
11:45 am
Fri January 31, 2014

City Council Approves Athenahealth Incentives Deal - But Not Unanimously

Massachusetts-based athenahealth will open its offices inside the former Seaholm Power Plant
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Last night the Austin City Council approved a deal that offers nearly $680,000 dollars in incentives for athenahealth to expand in Austin. The grant will be offered in addition to a $5 million subsidy from Gov. Rick Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund.

But not everyone is happy with the deal. Some council members argue that the city’s booming economy doesn’t need to offer subsidies to bring business to Austin. (The deal passed on a 5-2 vote, with city council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo voting no.)

Austin Monitor publisher Michael Kanin says that this debate is heating up as council members become increasingly divided on the issue of business incentives.

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Tejano Trails
6:33 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Could East Austin's Tejano Trails Keep Gentrification at Bay?

A cyclist passes El Buen Pastor Early Childhood Development Center on the Tejano Healthy Walking Trail in East Austin.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez, KUT

The Tejano Trails in East Austin are meant to highlight landmarks and legends of the area, but they’re not easy to find. Groups are now working to make the history of this neighborhood more visible under the guidance of a National Parks Service program. 

Last fall, the Scoot Inn, the oldest continuing running bar in Central Texas, made for a fitting location for an event promoting the next phase of Austin’s Tejano Trails

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Austin City Council
4:14 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

City Council OKs 'Visitability' Rules; All New Homes Must Be Wheelchair Accessible

New homes must have at least one entrance which doesn't contain a step, under new rules passed today at City Hall.
KUT News

The Austin City Council approved changes to city building code today, aiming to make new homes more accessible to everyone.

The changes aim to improve “visitability” in newly-built Austin homes by requiring disabled-accessible design. The rules are not retroactive, and don’t apply to remodels or additions.

Specific requirements include:

  • At least one bathroom or half-bath must be available on the first floor
  • First floor baths or half-baths must be accessible through a minimum 30-inch opening and contain wood blocking reinforcements within the walls for optional installation of hand bars
  • Light switches and thermostats can’t be higher than 48 inches from the floor; outlets must be a minimum of 15 inches above the floor
  • There must be at least one first-floor entrance that is 32 inches wide and cannot contain a step.
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Halloween Floods
8:41 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Onion Creek Residents Worry About Mold After Halloween Floods

Many houses in the Dove Springs neighborhood remain damaged and uninhabitable after the Halloween Floods, and mold growth continues to be a significant problem in the area.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

The mostly uninhabited neighborhood of Onion Creek in southeast Austin has experienced some growth. But it’s growth the few neighbors who are back do not welcome.

Mold and mildew is growing in many of the homes that were left uninhabited after last year’s floods, which could create health problems for those living in Onion Creek.

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Austin
1:35 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Will Occupancy Limits Aimed at 'Stealth Dorms' Hurt Austin Affordability?

Austin's Planning Commission voted last night to lower occupancy limits for unrelated roommates from six to four.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

A fight pitting affordable housing against neighborhood quality is headed to the Austin City Council.

Austin’s Planning Commission is recommending a reduction in the number of unrelated adults allowed to live together in single-family homes: the maximum would fall from six down to four.

Last night’s action was in response to complaints that neighborhoods were suffering from what opponents call “stealth dorms.”

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Weather
4:55 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Delays & Closures Mount as Winter Weather Tangles Austin Traffic (Update)

National Weather Service

Update: Temperatures went up above freezing this afternoon, giving the roads a chance to thaw out and dry up. Skies have cleared, setting us up for another cold night with a hard freeze, but with no precipitation in the forecast. 

Earlier: UT Austin has announced it will remain closed the rest of the day.

"Student and employee safety is our top concern and we understand the frustration that many on the Forty Acres feel about today’s weather-related delays," UT said in a statement published on its Tumblr page. "We’re very sorry for any trouble, inconvenience or problems that our students and employees faced related to our decisions."

Read on for more information on closures and delays.

Previously: Freezing rain began falling on the Austin area this morning after local school and government officials had announced their initial decisions about whether to operate today and when. In some cases, people already had set out on the roads for work and/or school when officials reconsidered earlier decisions and announced closures and delays.

Austin Police reported responding to 80 crashes between 5:00 and 7:30 A.M. By later in the morning, that number had grown to 214 crashes – about 40 per hour, according to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. At last check, that number had rose to 260.

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Weather
4:54 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

School Districts, UT Apologize as Late Weather Cancellations Are Criticized

An accident hampers the Mopac entrance in north Austin. Police responded to 274 collisions today.
Matt Largey, KUT News

A strong blast of wintry weather wasn’t the only irritant for many Austinites today: many were inconvenienced and frustrated by changing decisions from local officials on whether to open and when.

It seems the weather got unexpectedly worse at about the worst possible time: when many had already set on the roads. Adding to traffic were entities including the University of Texas and City of Austin, which did not initially alter their schedules.

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Winter Weather
1:19 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Meet the Austin Ice Scraper: a Credit Card, CD or Spatula

In Austin, ice scrapers are a hot commodity when the temperature drops. Check out our Instagram roundup of Austin alternatives.
flickr.com/rs_butner

The Austin area’s freeze this morning is no laughing matter: The wintry weather – which worsened in tandem with the city’s morning rush hour – snarled traffic and caught schools and government offices by surprise. (See a list of delays and closures here.)

But it’s also provided ample fodder on social media, where Austinites are sharing stories and images of their morning commute – or their snow days.

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Open Data
2:23 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Interactive: Austin is Mapping New 3-1-1 Call Data Online Every Day

A screen shot of 3-1-1 data visualized on the City of Austin website. New 3-1-1 data is refreshed on the site daily.
data.austintexas.gov

The City of Austin has started uploading information on 3-1-1 service calls – citizen requests for things like animal services, graffiti abatement, making noise complaints and more – in hopes software developers utilize the data for public apps.

In 2001, the City of Austin established 3-1-1 as a way for citizens to make non-emergency calls separate from police calls. According to austintexas.gov, Austin 3-1-1 receives over a million calls a year, which translates into some 200,000 departmental service requests each year. Citizens are also able to submit service requests online.

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