The 'Affordability Unlocked' Development Bonus Program waives or modifies some development restrictions in exchange for providing low- and moderate-income housing. The program is designed to increase the number of affordable housing units being developed in Austin and fully leverage public resources by allowing housing providers to build more units in their developments when significant amounts of affordable housing are included. In return for setting aside half of a development’s total units as affordable, bonuses include height and density increases, parking and compatibility waivers, and reductions in minimum lot sizes.

'Affordability Unlocked' Development Bonus Program (works best in Google Chrome)
OrdinanceApplicant Guide and Online Application 

To view a printable version of the application, click here.

NOTE: APPLICATIONS MUST BE SUBMITTED THROUGH THE ONLINE APPLICATION FORM.

The 'Affordability Unlocked' Development Bonus Program looks to capitalize on the $250 million in Affordable Housing Bonds that voters approved in 2018 by enabling developers to include more affordable units in their developments. The program is designed to help the City meet its goal of building 60,000 affordable housing units by 2027, which the City committed to through the Strategic Housing Blueprint.

The program applies citywide and offers extensive waivers and modifications of development regulations in exchange for setting aside at least half to a development’s total units as affordable. For rental units, that means the affordable units must serve households with incomes averaging up to 60% of the median family income (MFI), with a portion of those serving households up to 50% MFI, for 40 years. For ownership units, the affordable units must be sold to households with incomes averaging up to 80% MFI; these units must be affordable for 99 years.

The Affordability Unlocked program allows applicants to select from two levels of affordability. The first level, Type 1, includes entry-level requirements that must be met to utilize the program. The second level, Type 2, includes requirements in addition to all Type 1 requirements and allows for more development bonuses. Prior certification from NHCD is required before a site plan or building permit application can be processed. Applicants should apply to use the Affordability Unlocked program before submitting funding, S.M.A.R.T. Housing, site plan, or building permit applications.

'Affordability Unlocked' Bonus Program Requirements

Type 1 (Entry-level) Requirements

Rental Units:

  • Housing providers must agree to provide tenant protections including “just cause” eviction protections, the right of tenants to organize, and other protections as required in existing city/federal affordable housing agreements. Housing providers cannot discriminate against prospective renters because they have a voucher.
  • 25 percent of the affordable units must include two or more bedrooms, or be used to provide supportive or elderly housing;
  • 20 percent of all rental units must serve households up to 50 percent MFI;
  • At least half of all rental units must be affordable, averaging up to 60 percent of the median family income (MFI). These units must be affordable for 40 years;

Ownership Units:

  • At least half of the total units must be sold at prices affordable to households with incomes averaging up to 80% MFI. These units must be affordable for 99 years;
  • 25 percent of the affordable units must include two or more bedrooms, or be used to provide supportive or elderly housing;

Type 1 (Entry-level) Incentives
By participating in 'Affordability Unlocked' and meeting the requirements above, developers can receive the following waivers and/or modifications to development regulations: 

  • Waiver of compatibility requirements (height restrictions and setbacks from property line)
  • Waiver of building bulk restrictions (“Floor-to-Area Ratio/FAR”)
  • Waiver of duplex design requirements (including common wall, roof, & front porch regulations)
  • Waiver of dwelling unit occupancy limits (generally limiting homes to 4-6 unrelated individuals)
  • Waiver of site area requirements (density limits that apply in higher density zones)
  • Modified parking requirements (accessible parking still required)
  • Front & rear yard setbacks decreased by 50 percent
  • Minimum lot size & lot width reduced
  • Maximum height allowed by base zoning increased by 1.25 times
  • Up to 6 dwelling units per lot in single family zones

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Type 2 Requirements

  • Developments must meet all of Type 1 requirements (listed above), and one or more of the following:
  • At least 75 percent of units are affordable,
  • 10 percent of the affordable units serve households at 30% MFI or below,
  • 50 percent of affordable units have two or more bedrooms, or
  • Located within ¼-mile of an Imagine Austin Corridor with transit

Type 2 Incentives
In return for meeting the higher Type 2 requirements, developers using the Type 2 Bonus can receive the following additional modifications to development regulations: 

  • Maximum height allowed by base zoning increased by 1.5 times
  • Up to 8 dwelling units per lot in single family zones

The program is applicable in commercial and residential zoning districts and in most special-use zoning and overlay districts. Impervious cover requirements are not waived in the program.

For more information, email Alex Radtke, or call Neighborhood Housing and Community Development at 512-974-3100.