Austin, TX, City Code

Updated February 2020

By: City of Austin

Table of Contents

Active Transportation

The city’s land development code integrates bicycle parking requirements into its off-street parking code, with analogous use-specific minimum requirements (§25-6-477). Facility design standards conform to their Transportation Criteria Manual. Additional standards apply, such as a requirement that at least 50% of the bicycle parking spots need to be within 50 feet of the building’s principal entrance.

Affordable Housing Programs

The city’s codified ordinances include an Affordability Unlocked Bonus Program (§25-1-720). It establishes a voluntary density bonus for residential developments where at least 50% of units are affordable to residents making 60% median family income (MFI) or below or where at least 20% of units are affordable to residents making 50% MFI or below. Rental units have a minimum affordability period of 40 years and owner-occupied units have a minimum affordability period of 99 years.

Age-Friendly Communities | Housing an Aging Population

The city’s zoning code includes visitability requirements for all dwelling units (§4.4.7). The standards cover entrances and entrance routes, bathrooms and bathroom routes, and electrical switches and outlets that are inspected at different points in the development process.

Food trucks

The city’s public health services and sanitation code covers numerous aspects of mobile food establishments (§10-3-91 et seq.) including permit application, central preparation facility requirements, and inspections. The land development code provides standards for location and operating on private property (§25-2-812).

Green Building

The city’s code of ordinances outlines a green building program for commercial, multi-family, and single-family buildings. The Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) certification system includes three categories for each building type (§7.2.0). This certification system promotes building that exhibit best practices for community, health, and management of energy, water, and material resources (§7.1.1). The city’s code of ordinances also highlights a Green Builder Program within a Traditional Neighborhood District Criteria Manual (§8.1). 

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The city’s code of ordinances identifies several types of green infrastructure tactics as eligible for water quality credits and allows a percentage of required private common open space be satisfied by green roofs. It describes the water quality credit system and lists several eligible green infrastructure tactics (§1.6.7), which are defined as innovative management practices for enhancing groundwater recharge and maintaining the function of critical environmental features (§25-8-151). The code of ordinances also allows up to 50% of required common open space be satisfied as green roofs (§2.7.3.D.5).

Inclusionary Housing

The city's  land development code offers incentives for voluntary affordable housing provision. The ordinance’s Housing article offers fee waivers for S.M.A.R.T housing (safe, mixed-income, accessible, reasonably priced, transit-oriented, and compliant with the City's Green Building Standards) ranging from 25 percent of fees waived in return for 10 percent reasonably priced units to 100 percent of fees waived for at least 40 percent reasonably priced units (§25-1-704). The code provides further requirements for 100 percent fee waivers and establishes affordability requirements for different unit types.

The zoning code also offers dimensional and parking standards exemptions to vertical mixed use projects in exchange for affordable unit provision (§25-2-E-4.3.F). Ten percent of units in owner-occupied and residential projects must be affordable.

Residential INfill Development

The city’s land development code includes multiple sections that promote context-sensitive residential infill. It establishes contextual siting, bulk, and massing requirements for new single-family homes in established neighborhoods (§25F). and it establishes residential infill as a distinct development option for certain districts (§ 25-2-1531 et seq.). This development option authorizes higher densities and a greater mix of uses than would otherwise be permitted and includes housing mix and site requirements to help these projects blend into their settings.

Rethinking Off-Street Parking Requirements

The city’s land development code includes multiple types of policy-driven off-street parking requirements. It exempts all uses in downtown zoning districts from minimum off-street parking requirements (§25-6-591). It also authorizes parking reductions within many specific areas defined by street segments and for uses that provide showering and changing facilities, have adjacent on-street parking, preserve more trees than otherwise required, and provide car share vehicle spaces (§25-6-478).

Short-Term Residential Rentals

The city’s land development code addresses short-term residential rentals.

A 2012 ordinance amended in 2013 and 2016 establishes three categories of short-term residential rentals (§25-2-788 et seq.): Type 1 (owner-occupied units), Type 2 (non-owner-occupied, non-multifamily units), and Type 3 (non-owner-occupied multifamily units). The code provides detailed information on license application requirements (§25-2-791) and establishes limitations on short-term rental density and numbers of Type 2 and Type 3 licenses (§25-2-793).

General standards for short-term rentals address noise and advertising (§25-2-794). The code also addresses occupancy limits, local contact requirements, and enforcement mechanisms.

The code defines “short-term rental use” (§25-2-3).

Solar Energy

The city's development code addresses solar in its historic area district ordinance; the required preservation plan may encourage homeowners to incorporate sustainability features, including solar technologies and energy generation, if consistent with character-defining features of the district (§25-2-356.C).

Solar installations may exceed zoning district height limits by 15 percent (§25-2-531.B, C). They are permitted accessory uses for a principal residential use (§25-2-893.C.5).

In its section on Improvements to Encourage Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Vehicular Connectivity, the city lists the provision of solar power shading structures in parking lots as an option to fulfill design requirements (§25-2E.2.3.1.B.2).

The city lists integration of solar power generation into building design as a design option for green building requirements (§25-2E.3.3.2.C).

Student Housing

The city’s land development code includes two zoning districts to address different student housing issues. It’s University Neighborhood Overlay District includes development and design standards to encourage higher-density, pedestrian-oriented residential and mixed use development near the University of Texas campus (§25-2-179 & §25-2-751 et seq.). It’s Neighborhood Conservation Combining District modifies site development requirements for established single-family residential areas in accordance with a neighborhood plan to protect these areas from incompatible redevelopment (§25-2-173 & §25-2-371 et seq.).

All students occupying dwelling units must conform to the code’s dwelling unit occupancy limits (§25-2-511).

Tactical Urbanism

The city’s land development code authorizes temporary certificates of occupancy for pop-up retail uses in downtown districts (§25-1-364). Standards for pop-up retail address fire areas, amount of space devoted to the use, permissible uses and activities, and permit duration and renewal (§25-2-921).

Transit-Oriented Development

The city’s land development code includes a mapped transit-oriented development (TOD) district for light rail station areas (§25-2-766). It defines four distinct types of station areas: neighborhood center, town center, regional center, and downtown. It specifies the station area type for nine station areas. The district functions as an overlay until the city adopts a station area plan. District standards for station areas without a regulating plan address use permissions, site development, and parking.

Tree Preservation and the Urban Forest 

The city’s trees and vegetation code establishes tree preservation, planting, and maintenance requirements for public property, and its land development code establishes tree protections for private property.

The trees and vegetation code addresses definitions, the role of the urban forester, administration and enforcement, the comprehensive urban forest plan, standards of care for public trees, interference with the urban forester, penalties, planting restrictions, nuisance trees, duty to protect trees, location restrictions for trees, liability for damage to trees, capital improvement funding for trees, cooperative agreements for tree planting, administrative approvals, and appeals processes (§6-3).

The land development code includes tree and natural area protection standards that address definitions, administration, development application requirements, waivers and modifications, reports, land development by the city, permit requirements for protected tree removal, and prohibitions on heritage tree removal (§25-8-B).

Urban Agriculture

The city's streets and public property code was amended in 2011 to add a chapter on sustainable urban agriculture (Chapter 14-7). This chapter establishes a permitting process to obtain a garden permit for city-supported community gardens administered by nonprofit organizations on public or private land.

The city's land development code establishes a number of different urban agriculture use types, including community garden, market garden, and urban farm (§25-2-7). These are permitted in all districts (§25-2-491). It also establishes standards for residential urban farms (§25-2-863) and market gardens (§25-2-864). Standards address site area, animal raising and slaughtering, inputs, water conservation, on-site produce sales, employees, and residential character.

A section in the sign chapter allows for signs of certain size and height to be used for urban farms and market gardens (§25-10-155).  

A section in the water and wastewater chapter allows for temporary tap permits to supply water for city-supported community gardens (§25-9-99). City-supported community gardens are exempted from water impact fees (§25-9-346).

Austin, TX

2010 Population: 790,390

2010 Population Density: 2,653.24/square mile