Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Housing: The Calm Before the Storm?

Source: Shoot2Sell in Frontburner

Many cities are facing the same problem: how to meet the demand for housing, both in absolute numbers and in affordability. Richardson is no exception. The solutions Richardson adopts, if any, will have to emerge from the "Envision Richardson" planning process now underway. But that's been quiet recently. Too quiet. When will the calm break? How fierce will be the storm?

I don't have the answers. But an online article in "Frontburner" of "D Magazine" hints at what the storm in Dallas might look like.

Tuesday’s meeting [of the Dallas City Council's housing committee] was requested by Councilman Chad West, of North Oak Cliff, and four of his colleagues. They used a method known as a five-signature memo, which allows council members to ask for a discussion of a topic. West’s memo asked for a “briefing to explain the process and potential effects” of allowing two-, three-, and four-unit complexes on lots zoned for single family, as well as reducing the minimum lot sizes. Most of Dallas’ residential land is zoned for lots between 5,000 square feet and 7,500 square feet that hold a single home; West would like to see the city investigate the impact of lowering that requirement to 1,500, like in Houston, or 2,500, as in Austin.
Source: Frontburner.

Does the City of Richardson have a method where a minority of Councilmembers can ask for a discussion of a topic? If so, what is it and when was it last used?

The fact that West had to ask for this briefing shows that the Dallas City Council is not in charge in Dallas. City staff are. Staff are cautious about changes that could disrupt established processes or require significant resources. If City Council wants to drive change, they need to state their desired destination up front and challenge city staff to find ways to get there. That's not happening in Dallas. And it hasn't happened in Richardson, either. The destination can't just be "update the Comprehensive Plan."

The paragraph I chose to quote doesn't express how controversial change is. Closer, the headline for the "D Magazine" piece is "In Dallas, the Argument Over Single-Family Zoning Heats Up." A meeting simply to discuss the process of change is described as "more pugilistic than instructive." I'd like to think that politics in Richardson is more genteel than politics in Dallas, but I wonder if that's because we can bring about change more peacefully here, or whether we don't have Councilmembers willing to fight for change. Our current calm might be the calm before the storm, or it might just be Richardson's perpetual calm, not believing solutions to our housing problems are worth fighting over.

"City's calm surface,
Envision's subtle ripples,
Change awaits its time."
—h/t ChatGPT

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