Affordable Housing Sites in Austin, Texas

Executive Summary

The basic goal of this assignment was to create a rudimentary system for identifying potential affordable housing sites in Austin, Texas.  East Austin contains a disproportionate share of low-income housing projects. Therefore, the specific objective was to identify suitable sites in other parts of the city to expedite the dispersal of affordable housing.  The result was the creation of a database and related maps of potential affordable housing sites which met specific criteria. I focused on vacant sites with multifamily zoning because zoning change requests frequently derail projects. For purposes of this analysis, the term affordable housing sites refers to vacant tracts with multifamily zoning identified in my query.  This analysis relied heavily on the land use data base (Landuse_95) prepared by city staff in 1995. Although it is four years old, the data is nonetheless deemed useful because land use within the urban core has changed very little since that date and most of the new development has occurred in the extraterritorial jurisdictions during the recent economic expansion.

Procedural Steps

1)  I began with two City of Austin themes named Landuse_95 and Zoning.  I then created subset shape files named undevland for undeveloped land sites out of the Landuse_95 theme and mfzone for tracts zoned for multifamily land use out of the Zoning theme. I intersected these two themes to create a hybrid shape file named affordsites for which I used the ArcView Geoprocessing extension. I added the streets theme (cenline) for area identification purposes.

2)  I then created an  Overview Map showing the location of vacant sites throughout Austin with multifamily zoning. The JPEG image is not useful when viewed outside of ArcView because the sites are not readily visible due to the city-wide scale of the map. However, it is useful when viewed in ArcView because the reader can zoom in to examine particular sites.  
3) The Overview Map indicated that there are almost no affordable housing sites west of IH-35, north of Town Lake and south of Research Boulevard. There are also very few sites east of the interstate between these north/south boundaries. However, I did locate several sites in the Northeast and Southwest quadrants of the city as well as a sizable tract off of South Lamar Boulevard just north of Ben White Boulevard.  Sites deemed suitable for affordable housing must have reasonable proximity to schools, transportation, shopping and other basic services. I initially focused on schools and for that purpose I created a schools shape file out of the Facility shape file.  

I conducted queries to identify affordable housing sites within one-quarter mile and one-half mile of schools. All of the maps include narrative captions which identify the size of the affordable housing site, its zoning classification and allowable number of units per acre as well as the potential number of units which could be built on the site.

4)  Pursuant to the preceding discussion, I created maps to demonstrate the mechanics of identifying affordable housing sites with proximity to schools. I located two large sites (green color) in the  Southwest quadrant in an area described as being west of Mopac and north of William Cannon Boulevard. These sites are located within one-quarter mile of Patton Elementary School. This area can be characterized as being relatively affluent with low ethnic diversity. Land prices in more affluent communities frequently preclude affordable housing projects. However, a summary investigation of sold vacant tracts with multifamily zoning in this area suggests that land costs are not prohibitively expensive. In conclusion, these tracts represent strong candidates for affordable housing projects. 

5)  I also identified a large affordable housing site located off of  South Lamar Boulevard on Panther Trail just north of Ben White Boulevard.  It is noted that the affordable housing sites previously discussed in the southwest quadrant represent development on the periphery.  In contrast, this site on Panther Trail is part of the urban core and therefore represents an urban infill opportunity.  

6)  Focus was shifted from the South/Southwest sectors of the city to the Northeast quadrant in the general area described as being east of IH-35 in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 290 East and U.S. Highway 183. I imposed the search parameter of one-quarter mile from an elementary school. However, this search parameter failed to produce any affordable housing sites. I then expanded the search parameter to one-half mile from an elementary school. This revised search of the NE quadrant produced several affordable housing sites.  This exercise underscores the importance of conducting sensitivity tests based on flexible search criteria to minimize the exclusion of potential sites.  

Conclusion

This project represents a basic system for identifying affordable housing sites in Austin.  Additional themes will be added in the future including Capital Metro Bus Stops, Businesses (shopping), Major Employers and Flood Plain demarcation. I will first probably intersect the hybrid affordsites theme with the bus stops and repeat the process for the other themes cited above.  This will create a database of prime affordable housing sites located within close proximity to schools, transportation and basic services such as grocery stores and medical facilities.

 

 


GIS Themes:  

City of Austin
 
Land Use Metadata
Street Center Lines Metadata
Zoning Code Metadata
Zoning Description Metadata

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The metadata category Zoning Code above provides a brief description for each zoning classification (e.g. MF = Multifamily).  In contrast, Zoning Description provides detailed information for each zoning classification especially with regard to allowable uses and densities as well as the various subsets of a general zoning category.  According to the general City of Austin  GIS Directory, metadata does not exist for the Facilities theme.

 


The following exhibits the data files used to prepare this project report:

Theme 1: Undeveloped Land
Theme Name undevland.shp
Theme Description Undeveloped Land From City of Austin landuse_95.shp
Theme Type polygon
Positional Accuracy Required +/- 40 ft.
Map Projection Texas State Plane Central, NAD 83
Geographic Data Source Tiger Files
Attribute Table Name Attributes of undevland.shp  
Source Table(s) landuse_95.dbf
Attribute Data Source City of Austin Infrastructure Suport Services


Attribute table name - Attributes of undevland.shp
Field Name Field Description Field Type Field Size Decimals Indexed? Linked to?
Area Area of Undeveloped Tract text 25 n/a no n/a
Perimeter Perimeter of Undeveloped Tract text 25 n/a no n/a
Lu95 Landuse Coverage Look-up Code text 10 n/a yes n/a


Landuse
lookup table
Field Name Field Description Field Type Field Size Decimals Indexed? Linked to?
Type Type Code For Landuse text 2 na yes none
Description Description of Landuse text 50 na no  none


Theme 2: Multi-Family Zoning
Theme Name mfzone.shp
Theme Description Multi-family zoning designations for tracts throughout Austin from City of Austin zoning.shp
Theme Type polygon
Positional Accuracy Required +/- 40 ft.
Map Projection Texas State Plane Central, NAD 83
Geographic Data Source Tiger Files
Attribute Table Name Attributes of mfzone.shp  
Source Table(s) zoning.dbf
Attribute Data Source City of Austin Infrastructure Suport Services


Attribute table name - Attributes of mfzone.shp
Field Name Field Description Field Type Field Size Decimals Indexed? Linked to?
Area Area of Tract Designated for Multi-family Land Use text 25 n/a no n/a
Perimeter Perimeter of Tract Designated Multi-family text 25 n/a no n/a
ZType Multi-family Zoning Look-up Code text 10 n/a yes n/a


Zoning lookup table
Field Name Field Description Field Type Field Size Decimals Indexed? Linked to?
Type Zoning Code text 2 na yes none
Description Description of Zoning Classifications  text 50 na no  none


Theme 3:  Center Street Line
Theme Name streets.shp
Theme Description Shows location and names of streets (center line) from City of Austin cenline.shp
Theme Type Line
Positional accuracy required +/- 40 ft.
Map Projection Texas State Plane Central, NAD 83
Geographic data source Tiger Files
Attribute table name Attributes of cenline.shp  
Source table(s) cenline.dbf
Attribute data source City of Austin Infrastructure Suport Services


Attribute table name - Attributes of streets.shp
Field Name Field Description Field Type Field Size Decimals Indexed? Linked to?
ID   ID Number for each street segment numeric 6 n/a yes n/a
F_node From node to street segment numeric 6 n/a no n/a
T_node To node from street segment numeric 6 n/a no n/a
pre_dir Direction prefix for street segment text 2 n/a no n/a
str_name Sreet name text 25 n/a yes n/a
str_type Type of street text 8 n/a no n/a
L_fr_add Beginning left side address number numeric 6 n/a no n/a
L_to_add Ending left side address number numeric 6 n/a no n/a
R_fr_add Beginning right side address number numeric 6 n/a no n/a
L_Zip Left side zip code numeric 5 n/a no n/a
R_Zip Right side zip code numeric 5 n/a no n/a


Theme 4:  Schools
Theme Name schools.shp
Theme Description Elementary, Junior HIgh and High-School locations from City of Austin facility.shp
Theme Type polygon
Positional Accuracy Required +/- 40 ft.
Map Projection Texas State Plane Central, NAD 83
Geographic Data Source Tiger Files
Attribute Table Name Attributes of schools.shp  
Source Table(s) facility.dbf
Attribute Data Source City of Austin Infrastructure Suport Services


Attribute table name - Attributes of schools.shp
Field Name Field Description Field Type Field Size Decimals Indexed? Linked to?
Address Address of school text 50 n/a no n/a
Name Proper name of school text 50 n/a no n/a
Facility Lists type of school text 25 n/a no n/a
Type Unique identifying number for facility type text 5 n/a yes n/a


Theme 5: Potential Affordable Housing Sites
Theme Name affordsites.shp
Theme Description Intersect theme for our undevland and mfzone shapefiles
Theme Type polygon
Positional Accuracy Required +/- 40 ft.
Map Projection Texas State Plane Central, NAD 83
Geographic Data Source Tiger Files
Attribute table name Attributes of affordsites.shp  
Source Table(s) undevland.dbf and mfzone.dbf
Attribute Data Source City of Austin Infrastructure Suport Services


Attribute table name - Attributes of affordsites.shp
Field Name Field Description Field Type Field Size Decimals Indexed? Linked to?
Lu95 Landuse code for 1995 text 10 n/a no n/a
Ztype Zoning classification text 10 n/a no n/a

   


Bibliography

Mississippi Home Corporation GIS Map Services:  http://www.mshomecorp.com/gis.html

The Providence Plan:  Using GIS to Guide Urban Revitalization:  http://www.odyssey.maine.edu/gisweb/spatdb/urisa/ur94044.html

Townsend, James, Introduction to Databases, Chapters 4 and 5 ("OrganizingYour Data" and "Building Tables"). Carmel, Indiana. Que, 1992.

   


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