What Are Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts (NCCDs)?

What Are Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts (NCCDs)?

Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts (NCCDs) are zoning overlays that override base zoning districts, meaning that any zoning regulation specified in an NCCD overrides the city land development code. This establishes a complicated opt-in/opt-out basis for zoning regulations, sometimes on a property by property basis. NCCDs are almost exclusively used as an exclusionary zoning tool in Austin and were first implemented 33 years ago in Austin in 1986, pre-dating Imagine Austin by 26 years, which was adopted in 2012.

What Neighborhoods Have NCCDs?

Neighborhoods and approximate sizes with links to NCCD documents: Hyde Park (234 acres), North Hyde Park (253 acres), North University (235 acres), Fairview Park (119 acres), East 11th Street (40 acres), and East 12th Street (45 acres) are all neighborhoods that have NCCD overlays. These neighborhoods make up approximately 926 acres of central Austin. The list of NCCDs can be found here.

Austin’s Development Services Department Staff Recommends Eliminating NCCDs

Development Services Department Staff recommends that NCCDs be eliminated from the land development code (Testimony from the May 16, 2018 Planning Commission Meeting at the 8:56 pm). They stated that NCCDs have “created an unfair playing field across the city with people being able to create their own zoning districts for NCCDs and it adds a ton of complex[ity]. To the code in general moving forward, we’re going to have two applications. We’re going to have reviewers that will need to know two codes. And it’s complicated. NCCDs are complicated. And then you have subchapter F. When are tents required? When are tents not required? When is an architect required to seal the drawings? When are they not? It becomes extremely complicated. We’re saying eliminate F25 from our residential zoned properties so that it goes to a zoning code within CodeNEXT. DSD has always been behind F25 [NCCDs] coming out of the code.”

Specific Impacts Of NCCDs in Hyde Park

The Hyde Park NCCDs currently ban homeowners with less than 7,000 sqft lots from building ADUs or duplexes, make ADUs and duplexes difficult to build on lots over 7,000 sqft, bans missing middle housing that used to make up a large part of the character of our neighborhood, and makes new walkable restaurants and businesses illegal by right. Hyde Park is currently one of the only neighborhoods in Austin that the city wide relaxed rules on ADUs (garage apartments, granny flats) that passed in 2015 does not apply to because of the NCCDs. The NCCDs restrict height along much of Guadalupe St (an activity corridor) to only 2 to 3 stories, which prevents new housing above businesses on the corridor (north of 40th St a building that is 30 feet or less from the rear property line may not exceed 30 feet in height – otherwise height is restricted to 40 feet). Because of compatibility requirements on shallow lots, NCCD height restrictions, and parking requirements vertical mixed use becomes mainly infeasible on Guadalupe St, which is why most of the buildings along this stretch of Guadalupe St are only one story. The NCCDs also require burdensome parking requirements for all housing (2 required spaces per dwelling unit in single-family and 1 space per bedroom in multi-family) and businesses. The NCCDs require complex setbacks (setback averaging), driveway requirements, garage setback requirements (shall be set back at least 20 feet from the alley or street), curb cuts, FAR, lot sizes (5,750 sqft for single-family and 8,000 sqft for multi-family), lot widths, ADU size limits (Hyde Park: maximum gross floor area is 850 sqft; North Hyde Park: 850 sqft and 550 sqft on second floor), ADU height limits, ADU setbacks, front door placement requirements, requirements of what lot side front doors face, fence height and material requirements, porch location requirements, and impervious cover requirements that can change per property. Not even city staff understands the complexity of rules in the NCCDs, which adds time and money to new housing or even if just adding an addition.

NCCDs Eliminated Most Future Potential Housing in Hyde Park

The NCCDs eliminated most of the future potential housing in Hyde Park by downzoning large portions of the neighborhood from multi-family to single-family, reducing or eliminating housing entitlements from almost all zoning, and restricting height on Guadalupe St. Large sections of Duval St and Speedway were downzoned from multi-family to single-family (Image1, Image2). Large numbers of SF-3 zoned properties were downzoned to SF-2 and many commercial zoned properties were also downzoned (Image3, Image4). For the properties that the NCCD did not downzone, it reduced the housing entitlements for nearly all properties in the neighborhood compared to base zoning – especially focusing on removing entitlements from multi-family housing. Single-family zoning districts were reduced from 35 feet to 30 feet in maximum height. Multi-family zoning districts were reduced to 30 feet in maximum height (from 90 feet in MF-6, 60 feet in MF-5/MF-4, and 40 feet in MF-3/MF2/MF-1), reduced to 50% maximum building coverage (from 70% in MF-6, 60% in MF-5/MF-4, and 55% in MF-3), reduced maximum impervious cover to 60% (from 80% in MF-6, 70% in MF-5/MF-4, and 65% in MF-3), and reduced Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) to 0.5:1 (from no FAR requirement in MF-6, 1:1 in MF-5, .75:1 in MF-4/MF-3, and none in MF-2/MF-1). Commercial zoning districts were similarly impacted by increasing the minimum lot sizes to 8,000 sqft from 5,750 sqft, reducing the FAR to .5:1 from 2:1, maximum building coverage to 50% from 95%, and maximum height to 30 feet from 60 feet. According to the authors of the NCCDs, the NCCDs also “purposely” banned mixed use (MU) zoning in commercial zoning, which limits housing, neighborhood amenities, and the walkability of the neighborhood. The NCCDs effectively wiped out most of the multi-family potential in the neighborhood, even for properties still zoned multi-family.

Hyde Park Density Is Decreasing And Is Now Comparable With Other Central Austin Neighborhoods

The density of Hyde Park has decreased since the NCCDs were put in place in 2002 and 2005, which partially could be attributed to the NCCDs. From 2000 to 2010, while the population of Austin increased 20%, the population of census tract 3.02 (which is one that contains the Hyde Park NCCD) dropped by 3%. However, not all groups declined. The population between 55 and 69 increased by 142% over the same period. Also, while one third of the population was between 18 and 24 years old in the year 2000, that group declined 14% just 10 years later. As this image shows, the population of Hyde Park continued to decline dramatically after the year 2010.

When using information from the United States Census Bureau, Hyde Park’s density is approximately 6,389 people per square mile when looking at the information based on Block Groups or approximately 6,441 people per square mile when looking at the census tract information most closely aligned to the neighborhood. The population density of Hyde Park is now similar to the density of other central Austin neighborhoods and continues to decline.

Our Neighborhood Character is Being Lost Under The Hyde Park NCCDs – Few Triplexes, Fourplexes, ADUs Remain

Hyde Park has historically been made up of a large stock of missing middle housing (garage apartments, historic homes split into multiple dwellings, cooperative housing, etc.). However, there are now only 9 triplexes, 7 fourplexes, and very few garage apartments that remain in Hyde Park. In 2010 only 26 garage apartments remained south of 45th St, which is where most of the garage apartments are. There were also only 32 duplexes south of 45th St in 2010. The current land development code under the Hyde Park NCCD rules made these housing types illegal in most cases. Now when a property is redeveloped or new housing is built, the earlier allowed housing types that were more affordable are often replaced with or remodeled into expensive large single-family homes on large lots because no other housing options are allowed. As the image shows, in the years after the current land development code was put in place (1985-1988), new housing added to Hyde Park slowed. Then after the NCCDs were layered onto the code (2002-2005), new housing nearly came to a stop. In fact, during the CodeNEXT process, the Fregonese analysis using Envision Tomorrow showed that less than 1% of the parcels in Hyde Park were predicted to redevelop to allow for more housing types or uses over the next 10 years under the NCCDs. The NCCDs have essentially frozen zoning in place or downzoned properties, which leaves Hyde Park unable to grow and improve as the city does around us. These factors are slowly changing the character of Hyde Park to be unaffordable for most people, changing who can live here, and changing what the neighborhood looks like. Imagine Austin says, “continued protection and preservation of existing neighborhoods and the natural environment must be considered top priorities of comprehensive revisions to the City Code.” Legalizing missing middle housing types again would allow Hyde Park to start to regain its historic natural environment and allow the people to continue to live here that make Hyde Park what it is.

NCCDs Are Inconsistent With Project Connect, CapMetro, and Better Transit

Guadalupe St, running along Hyde Park, has been identified for the Orange Line in Project Connect for high-frequency transit. Hyde Park has two high-frequency transit stops along the route, Triangle Station and Hyde Park Station that are identified by CapMetro as “TOD Opportunities to Support High-Capacity Transit” to encourage greater density and housing opportunities within 1/2 mile from the transit stops. “Capital Metro is undertaking a system-wide initiative to encourage transit-oriented development (TOD) along its high-capacity MetroRapid and MetroRail transit corridors. TOD is an attractive, walkable, and sustainable development pattern organized around high-capacity transit that can maximize Capital Metro’s system ridership and offer residents of the Greater Austin area with an array of housing choices, and convenient access to the region’s jobs, services, campuses, and amenities.” NCCDs are inconsistent with future plans for transit and would decrease transit supportive density, housing options, and jobs within 1/2 mile of the high-frequency transit stops and within 1/4 mile of the transit corridor for large stretches of central Austin. As the image shows, the neighborhood remains car-dependent and does not have the transit supportive density or sustainable land use zoning to be a complete community. Changes are needed in Hyde Park to support a better transportation system city-wide and at the neighborhood level.

Worsening Affordability in Hyde Park Linked To Current Land Development Code

According to rentcafe.com, the average rent for Hyde Park is $1,498 a month and the average rent for Austin city-wide is $1,364 a month. Zumper.com has similar numbers stating that the average rent for a 2 bedroom in Hyde Park is $1,595 a month and the average rent in Austin for a two bedroom is $1,495 a month. These numbers are consistent with a high demand area with not enough housing supply to maintain the average rent comparable to the city-wide average.

The current land development code, specifically the Hyde Park NCCDs that are some of the most restrictive zoning rules in Austin, may be one of the primary causes for why we are losing our more affordable housing stock in Hyde Park. The Obama White House Housing Development Toolkit on land use regulations states that “over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified, particularly in the high-growth metropolitan areas increasingly fueling the national economy. The accumulation of such barriers – including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes – has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions. By modernizing their approaches to housing development regulation, states and localities can restrain unchecked housing cost growth, protect homeowners, and strengthen their economies.”

NCCDs Are Inconsistent with Imagine Austin

“Imagine Austin includes a growth concept map that identifies activity centers and corridors where growth is either anticipated or desired” like the Guadalupe activity corridor and that planning “ensures complete communities as the city grows.” Imagine Austin also calls for more housing “within 1/2 mile of retail and activity centers” and “units within 1/2 mile of transit and high capacity transit.” Imagine Austin also calls for new development and redevelopment to be “compact and connected” and a “process of creating a more efficient, predictable, and understandable Land Development Code.” The Hyde Park NCCDs would prevent these Imagine Austin goals.

NCCDs Complicate the Land Development Code

The City of Austin would have to carry over and maintain the current land development code in order to keep NCCDs after the passage of a new land development code, meaning the City of Austin would be maintaining and operating under two completely different land development codes at the same time. Property owners in neighborhoods with NCCDs would have complex NCCDs to navigate when making additions onto their homes as well as trying to determine what layers of city code that would apply. Zoning regulations can change from property to property within NCCDs. This makes it difficult for city staff and for homeowners to know what is allowed. A goal of a new land development code is to simplify the land development code. Maintaining NCCDs adds layers of unnecessary complications that harm affordability.

Hyde Park NCCDs May Increase Displacement and Gentrification in Other Neighborhoods

The NCCDs may be increasing development pressure on other neighborhoods throughout the city, such as neighborhoods in East Austin by artificially restricting the supply of housing in the neighborhood. This could cause displacement of residents and gentrification in East Austin neighborhoods, especially if the NCCDs are not eliminated when a new land development code is created. If new housing isn’t allowed in Hyde Park, that new housing will move to the areas of the city that do allow that new housing like East Austin, which would have otherwise been shared with Hyde Park. According to the Obama White House Housing Development Toolkit on land use regulations, “when new housing development is limited region-wide, and particularly precluded in neighborhoods with political capital to implement even stricter local barriers, the new housing that does get built tends to be disproportionally concentrated in low-income communities of color, causing displacement and concerns of gentrification in those neighborhoods. Rising rents region-wide can exacerbate that displacement.”

NCCDs May Be Illegal Because of Disparate Impact Under the Federal Fair Housing Act

A recent audit by the Office of the City Auditor, the Audit of Neighborhood Planning, states that some of Austin’s previous neighborhood planning efforts “are not consistent with some elements of Imagine Austin,” and that “fair housing choice has not been specifically considered in most neighborhood planning efforts.”

“The Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice report, completed for the City in 2015 and submitted to the federal government, identifies several barriers to housing choice related to neighborhood planning and its associated zoning. The report recommends that the City work through the CodeNEXT process to modify land use and regulatory barriers.”

“The Code Diagnosis report completed for the City as a part of the CodeNEXT process identified elements of the Code as being complex, causing delays directly connected to affordability. The diagnosis notes that the lack of transparency around neighborhoods opting in or out of some regulations in neighborhood plans contributes to this complexity.”

The audit states that “current land use policies and practices that do not incorporate fair housing concepts, if unaddressed, could create a risk of litigation against the City or a risk of losing federal grants.

NCCDs May Be Illegal Under Texas Local Government Code and the Austin City Charter

The Texas local government code states, “a municipality may define, in its charter or by ordinance, the relationship between a comprehensive plan and development regulations and may provide standards for determining the consistency required between a plan and development regulations.” The Austin City Charter states that “all city regulatory actions relating to land use, subdivision and development approval shall be consistent with the comprehensive plan,” which is Imagine Austin – meaning zoning regulations must adhere to Imagine Austin. NCCDs are small area combining districts like neighborhood plans or conditional overlays. The Audit of Neighborhood Planning found that these types of plans are inconsistent with Imagine Austin. The audit states that “a 2006 audit of the City of Austin’s long-term planning efforts found that neighborhood plans were neither consistent nor guided by a unified vision for the City.” These types of plans have not been “updated to reflect Imagine Austin,” may not reflect the “Imagine Austin comprehensive plan regarding the inclusion of goals,” and as a result “may not reflect the present-day needs and vision that stakeholders have for their neighborhoods or their city.”

Council Directed Opt-in and Opt-Out Processes Like NCCDs Be Eliminated

According to the Audit of Neighborhood Planning, “via a resolution, the City Council directed the CodeNEXT process to address this issue as part of the revision process. The Household Affordability Code Prescription agreed with and referenced the findings of the Impediments to Fair Housing Choice report. To address the impediments created by the optin/opt-out zoning practices allowed by the Neighborhood Plan Combining District sections of the Code, the prescription recommended that code provisions regarding the choosing of which infill options would be allowed in a planning areas be eliminated through the CodeNEXT process.” Even though the CodeNEXT process was terminated, this issue and others still need to be resolved when developing a new land development code.

Resolution Calls for Allowing Missing Middle Housing Including ADUs, Townhouses, Bungalow Courts, Triplexes, Fourplexes

In one of the largest stakeholder processes in Hyde Park’s history, Hyde Park residents voted overwhelmingly to support a new land development code replacing the existing land development code in Hyde Park. The neighborhood association Friends of Hyde Park held the vote, allowing anyone that lives in the neighborhood to participate. 91 Hyde Park residents out of our 403 members voted. 78% of the members that voted supported the resolution.

Our resolution specifies that “a new land development code should allow property owners to choose to build more affordable “Missing Middle” housing options in the interior of the neighborhood that fits in with the historic character of our neighborhood while allowing more housing options for renters (Garage apartments, smaller homes on smaller lots, townhouses, bungalow courts, triplexes, fourplexes, etc.” Our neighborhoods should be allowed more housing on the interior of the neighborhood and more housing along major roads and corridors.

Overwhelming Support For New Walkable Restaurants And Reduced Parking

Hyde Park residents, through Friends of Hyde Park, overwhelmingly voted (70% out of 136 total voters) that they were in favor of allowing new walkable amenities like restaurants along roads in our neighborhood like 45th St and also voted to reduce neighborhood business and restaurant parking requirements (90% out of 101 total voters). The walkable amenities that our residents love and enjoy, such as Quack’s, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, ASTI, and Mother’s, would almost be impossible to establish today under the current land development code. These are the types of changes that a new land development code should allow along major roads within our neighborhood by right in which Hyde Park residents support.

Full Resolution Language

For more information on our membership’s vote, a full list of registered voters, and who voted, please visit the link below or view the full resolution below.

“Friends of Hyde Park supports a new modernized land development code applying to Hyde Park that helps housing affordability for renters and homeowners, reduces economic and racial segregation and income inequality, improves transportation across our neighborhood, and is based on current research for smart land use regulations. A new land development code should allow property owners to choose to build more affordable “Missing Middle” housing options in the interior of the neighborhood that fits in with the historic character of our neighborhood while allowing more housing options for renters (Garage apartments, smaller homes on smaller lots, townhouses, bungalow courts, triplexes, fourplexes, etc. More information here: http://missingmiddlehousing.com/). The land development code should streamline and shorten the permitting process, which would make it easier for homeowners when doing remodels or adding additions. The new code should allow a more walkable and bikeable neighborhood, amenities and restaurants located near neighborhoods, allow more housing to be built near corridors and major roads, help reduce car dependence throughout the city in order to reduce traffic and commute times, provide open spaces and parks, and help provide more opportunities for families with children and people of all income levels to live in our central Austin neighborhoods.”

Information About Friends of Hyde Park

Friends of Hyde Park is currently the largest neighborhood association in our neighborhood with 426 current members (approximately 50% renters and 50% homestead homeowners). Friends of Hyde Park advocates for more affordable housing and a more walkable, bikeable, inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and transit friendly neighborhood. Sign up for free to become a member at the link below to help us improve our neighborhood and community: http://friendsofhydepark.atxfriends.org/join/

Board of Directors of Friends of Hyde Park

Pete Gilcrease
Teresa Griffin
Tommy Ates
Matt Desloge
Ricky Hennessy
Adam Luikart
Matt Walsh