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Buda seeks housing balance

A rewrite of Buda’s Unified Development Code (UDC) is on the horizon as city leaders look to balance the city’s small town charm while accommodating for future housing needs.

Buda is gathering public input on the UDC rewrite, according to Chance Sparks, interim assistant city manager.

In an interview, Sparks detailed the development process and which parts of the process Buda could tailor more specifically to its vision.

Sparks said if a city’s building and development codes are written in a way that allows developers to build homes with high profit margins, many developers will take advantage of it and build large square footage single-family homes or apartment complexes.

According to Sparks, a developer can build a neighborhood like Whispering Hollow on land that has been zoned medium residential. 

Homes with a smaller lot size footprint, like the ones found in Bradfield Village, can be built on land zoned high density residential.

Sparks said the Unified Development Code supports the types of housing sought by city residents. For city codes to change, the residents have to get involved.

“We need citizen input to change housing codes (in Buda),” Sparks said.

Sparks said city codes cannot establish a price point for homes, but they can introduce specific guidelines pertaining to building style and architectural design.

“Under the new code, we are trying to create some standards for quality type development to determine the design, the materials and trying to get away from the ‘McMansion’ feeling,” Sparks said.

According to Sparks, Buda residents may benefit from a form based code that requires the developer to submit not only the preliminary plan that includes the construction of roads and utilities, but the housing designs as well.

Market trends, however, ultimately determine what kinds of houses are selling.

The biggest housing markets in this area, San Antonio and Austin, determine what kinds of houses developers in Kyle, Buda, San Marcos and other areas are going to build.

The current market trend for housing in this area allows builders to build homes costing $250,000 and up. The concern is many families can’t afford homes in that price range but would be more inclined toward homes in the $180,000 to $200,000 range.

Earlier this year, the city attempted to gather input from the public via its housing action plan survey. Due to the survey’s ineffectiveness, however, city leaders pulled the survey.

According to Sparks, one reason the housing survey fell flat was due to the misconception behind Section 8 housing, as well as confusion with the word “affordable.”

Section 8 distinction means that a homeowner decided to rent out their home and apply for the Section 8 voucher to help the tenant pay rent, Sparks said. He said Section 8 housing could be anywhere and everywhere.

According to Sparks the City has not abandoned its goal of community outreach regarding the Housing Action Plan but is currently consulting the Housing Action Plan Committee on a viable strategy for community involvement.

“A trending shrinking family size has created a demand for other types of housing in Buda and we (the City) want to make sure that the residents who want to live and stay in Buda can afford to do so no matter what stage of life they’re in,” Sparks said.

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