Austin City Council Approves 60-Day ‘Grace Period’ For Owed Rent

Austin tenants affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic have 60 days to come up with owed rent once a landlord starts threatening eviction. With a unanimous vote Thursday, council members approved an ordinance adding another step to the eviction process, thereby slowing a potential force-out of tenants unable to pay rent because their wages have dried up. It goes into effect immediately and applies to both residential and commercial properties. “No one should lose their home during the pandemic,” Council Member Greg Casar, who brought the item forward, said. “It’s wrong and it’s also terrible for public health.” There had been confusion on behalf of renters and landlords about how to move forward amid staggering unemployment. Some landlords have begun offering payment plans to those affected by the coronavirus, while others have reiterated that rent is due in full. Before council’s vote, landlords could still file evictions against tenants, although Travis County judges are not hearing these cases. Judges have suspended eviction hearings until at least May 9. The new rule buys renters time by adding a step to the eviction process, which typically begins when a landlord posts a “notice to vacate” sign on a tenant’s door. This indicates the intent to file an eviction with the courts within days unless the tenant pays rent or moves out. Click to read more at www.kut.org.

After offer, Travis Central Appraisal District and Austin Board of Realtors at market data impasse

After the Austin Board of Realtors offered what it called a possible solution to an ongoing dispute over market data access Feb. 27, the Travis Central Appraisal District said it would not change its decision to use last year’s home appraisal values again this year. TCAD Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler in a Feb. 27 statement described ABoR’s offer to provide aggregate housing market data organized by ZIP code as “disingenuous.” “It would be illegal for us to change market values without having the data to support those changes,” Crigler wrote, adding aggregate data would not justify “across-the-board” increases on individual properties and that doing so would violate both state code and industry standards. ABoR’s offer arrived after the appraisal district announced Feb. 12 that home appraisal values would not change this year after ABoR sent a cease-and-desist order in May prohibiting use of its market data in the appraisal process. Texas is a nondisclosure state, which means real estate sales prices and other market data are not public record. Click to read more at www.communityimpact.com.

Crane spotting: Construction in full swing on numerous projects in Northwest Austin

Construction cranes have emerged in Northwest Austin as tech companies and entertainment options target the growing area.

In 2019, several major projects, including Apple’s second campus and Austin FC’s soccer stadium, broke ground. However, cranes and crews are at work on several other projects in the area as demand for hotel rooms and multi-family units increases. The slideshow shows a look at some of the projects underway in the area. Click to read more at www.communityimpact.com.

Austin council members divided over hire of outside attorney in property protest rights lawsuit

The first court date in the lawsuit between City Council and a group of citizens fighting for the right to protest property rezonings that result from the city’s ongoing land development code rewrite is less than a month away, and City Council has hired an outside attorney to defend them in court. Some City Council members, however, objected to the city spending up to $121,000 to hire Austin-based firm Scott Douglas & McConnico to argue that property owners have no formal protest rights during comprehensive revisions of the land development code. City Council Members Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo and Alison Alter voted against the city using taxpayer money to fight against what Pool said are taxpayer interests—the right to formally protest their property’s rezoning. Council Member Ann Kitchen abstained from the vote. Together, the council members were the four nays in the 7-4 vote to approve the first reading of land development code rewrite in December. “My reason for voting against this is I don’t believe we should waste taxpayer dollars on outside attorneys to deny people the right to a valid protest,” Pool said to a handful of claps from the City Council Chambers audience Jan. 23. Click to read more at www.communityimpact.com.

Austin outranks major West Coast city in new projection of office job growth

It’s Bat City versus the City by the Bay in a new projection for the growth of office jobs in 2020. Commercial real estate services company CBRE predicts Austin will see a 2.6 percent rise in office jobs this year compared with last year. That puts Austin in first place for anticipated office-job growth in 2020 among U.S. markets with at least 37.5 million square feet of office space. Office jobs include those in the tech, professional services, and legal sectors. Austin edges out San Francisco for the top spot in CBRE’s forecast, published January 9. The company predicts a 2.5 percent increase in San Francisco office jobs this year versus last year. Personal finance website WalletHub recently ranked San Francisco and Austin third and fourth, respectively, on its list of the U.S. best cities to find a job. “It’s not surprising that the forecast for Austin is extremely bright, and we expect that technology companies and professional firms will still drive the demand for more [offices],” Troy Holme, executive vice president in the Austin office of CBRE, says in a January 22 release. Click to read more at www.austinculturemap.com.

McAllen On The Move

A powerhouse city. Boomtown. The epicenter of the Rio Grande Valley. There are plenty of ways to describe McAllen, Texas, but they all have one
thing in common: growth. “With the volume of consumers that comes in to
McAllen daily, our city has developed a robust economy,” says Rebecca Olaguibel, the city’s Director of Retail and Business Development. The numbers are incredible for a city its size. With a population of around 140,000, McAllen generates more than $3 billion in gross retail sales thanks to 18 million people (an average of 39,000 people per day) who visit the city every year. It’s just 10 miles north of the Mexican border, so international visitors flow through it via McAllen International Airport and the two international bridges managed by the city. “It’s truly a geographic jackpot,” says Olaguibel, who has worked for the City of McAllen for 12 years. Its retail offerings are part of the draw of McAllen, making it the premiere shopping destination in South Texas and northern Mexico. While new
shopping centers and big box retailers open up new locations there, city leaders say it’s important to recognize the critical role small businesses play in the overall success of McAllen. Click to read more at www.rednews.com.