There has always been an extreme shortage of housing in central Austin. The simple law of supply and demand has driven up the cost of housing (and our tax rates) virtually every year for the past 25 years. Houses are prohibitively expensive, and apartments and condos are rapidly becoming too expensive for average wage earners to afford.
One result of this housing shortage has been unprecedented sprawl in all directions. People move to Austin to experience the “Austin lifestyle,” but quickly discover that they can only afford to live in Kyle or Hutto. Traffic on highways going out of town is cruel and inhumane.
Another result of the housing shortage has been stealth dorms. Investors have discovered that it is extremely profitable to tear down a small cottage and build a boarding house. There is currently no law against this, and people who are desperate to live in Central Austin will pay handsomely for a bedroom in a shared-living-arrangement.
Finally, though, the elastic has finally stretched to the breaking point. Developers are finally building high-density apartments again. These “mixed-use” developments are designed to provide nice Central Austin housing on major arterial streets. It’s a win, win, win: The “stealth-dorm” development becomes less profitable, the sprawl is decreased, and people can finally afford to live in Central Austin again.
One example of this “urban infill” development is taking place at North Loop and Lamar. Camden Lamar Heights will provide first-floor business space, and over 300 residents ranging in size from 600 to 1200 square feet.
This is a substantial improvement over the asphalt-jungle, semi-vacant strip-center that squatted on that corner for decades. And it is just a small sign of things to come. Both north and south of this development are proposed projects that would reinvent the east side of Lamar from 51st Street to Koenig.