Spring is in the air, and that means the onset of potentially destructive weather. So what does the risk of violent weather have to do with the National Association of Home Builders, fair housing litigation and the responsibilities of local government? Read on.
City officials across the nation generally realize that decisions they make about development and construction standards can affect their communities’ tax base, sustainability, aesthetics, energy efficiency and the overall health, safety and welfare of their residents.
We know, for example, that masonry (brick, stone, concrete block) provides greater protection against high wind and fire than nonmasonry siding products. We also know that density levels within neighborhoods can affect a municipality’s ability to supply adequate public safety services and utilities.
Appropriate development and building standards, along with proper zoning and planning, are integrally related to the ability of cities to protect the tax base and provide public services. More than 100 Texas cities, for example, have adopted ordinances requiring minimum percentages of masonry for all new commercial and residential construction, and that trend continues to spread across the state.
Kyle TX’s revised zoning ordinance established minimum standards for residential construction in the city: a minimum of 1,600 square feet, up from 1,400; minimum lot size of 8,190 square feet, 20 percent greater than previously; garages of not less than 480 square feet; and construction with exteriors of 100 percent masonry, encompassing brick, concrete, cement-based or stone options.
In 2005, these enhancements were finalized with the input of our diverse Kyle community. Indeed, Kyle had an African American mayor, and the majority of our City Council was Hispanic. We are very proud of the diversity of our city and embrace it as an asset.
We also continue to have a large inventory of affordable housing of all types. In fact, all of the 60,000 residential lots platted prior to passage of our new ordinance were grandfathered, allowing for continued construction under the old ordinance for those developments already planned.
Nevertheless, the NAHB apparently decided that Kyle needed to be stopped from exercising its rights to local self-governance and self-determination in our attempt to safeguard the quality of life in our community.
The NAHB sued the City of Kyle in federal district court in Austin, claiming that our revised zoning ordinance would increase the cost of housing and discriminate against minorities. Joining the NAHB were the NAACP national office, the Texas NAACP, the NAACP Austin chapter and the Greater Austin Home Builders Association.
Read remainder of the story at the Austin American Statesman