Transformation has been the name of the game in Austin, TX for a while now. Once a laid back college town, Austin is now a center for technology innovation, music, cultural, and personal innovation as people move, seemingly to Austin in droves, from both coasts to reinvent themselves.
Austin’s housing market has been and continues to reinvent itself as well. In five years, the median sale price of a single family home in Austin has increased 48.2% from $250,000. in April, 2012, to $370,600. in April, 2017, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. Many existing single family homes are being marketed as “ideal tear-downs” to accommodate “gut renovations” that newly transplanted homebuyers demand. Additionally, new construction permits for single family homes have likewise increased over this five year period…138%!
Michael Hsu, an architect designing several gut renovation and/or new construction projects in Austin, says, “luxury is being redefined here… everyone moving (from Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles) to Austin wants a lifestyle shift…they don’t want the kind of homes they’ve left behind.”
One such new owner couple from Chicago hired Matt Fajkus, the principal of Matt Fajkis Architecture in Austin, to design a new modern home built primarily to house their extensive vintage car collection. The home includes 2,000 sq. ft. of garage and outdoor space with upper level cantilevers that extend out form a box shaped lower level. The cars live “upstairs.”
Fajkis calls Austin’s architectural landscape “fluid.” He goes on to say that “sometimes, while working on a house, the entire neighborhood will change, It’s an interesting challenge. Are you designing for the way the neighborhood is now or for how the neighborhood will be?”
In older neighborhoods, dilapidated shacks stand, barely, next to boxy white contemporaries. Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council member and the city’s mayor pro tempore, says that “…it’s not just the streetscape and character of the neighborhoods that we’re losing, it’s also the visual elements of our city’s past.”
In an effort to at least balance Austin’s housing and architectural transformations, Tovo describes a new land development code just introduced to the city called CodeNext. “The goal of CodeNext is to update and consolidate regulations that deal with neighborhood density, affordability and livability to improve what we love and to improve what we don’t.”