Your City At Work
We are pleased to share Austin Code Department's annual report for the Fiscal Year 2020. Despite the challenges brought by a global pandemic, we achieved extraordinary results. By working with community and City partners, we were able to identify ways to better serve the public. We provided continued education and apply enforcement strategies when needed. Additionally, we continued our path to align with the City of Austin’s Strategic Plan 2023 to make significant progress in making our city stronger, safer, and more equitable for all. We are here to work for you. We look forward to working with our communities to make Austin a livable city for all.
To build a safer and greater Austin together through code education, collaboration, and enforcement.
- Strengthen community relations by raising awareness and understanding of local code requirements
- Ensure a safe environment by enforcing the legal use of Austin lands and properties
- Provide a fair and just administration by delivering fair, equitable, and transparent enforcement of City codes.
About Austin Code
We work to protect the safe, healthy, and legal use of lands and homes. We maintain a balance between code compliance and code enforcement. We do this by identifying dangerous and substandard conditions and implementing programs to ensure a minimum standard is met. Our response times vary but are set based on considerations such as time-sensitivity and the risks to life safety.
"The global Coronavirus pandemic affected our families, our communities, and our way of life."
Serving Our Community
With the onset of COVID-19, our field staff notably served as essential workers. Code inspectors educated the community and enforced the Emergency Orders enacted to help control the spread of the virus. Throughout the crisis, our support staff adapted to rapid change. We managed competing priorities. We collaborated to solve problems, and we adjusted our course as situations and assignments evolved. Visit the COVID-19 dashboard to learn more.
PACE Response Team
The words “essential employee” took a different meaning for Austin Code. The lives of code inspectors were at stake and became front and center to the COVID-19 response. Typically, ACD deploys a team known as PACE (Public Assembly Code Enforcement). The team consists of several city entities that address code enforcement concerns during large events. During their deployment this year, the PACE team were the first to respond to COVID-19 related complaints.
Educating on Eviction Protection
The City of Austin issued protection for residential tenants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This order prohibits the issuance of Notices to Vacate and the removal of property of a tenant by a property owner. The Austin Code Department focused on educating the community on these orders to maintain compliance. Visit the COVID-19 Dashboard to learn more.
Beginning March 17, 2020, many employees were able to transition to work remotely by transitioning to a virtual work setting using Microsoft TEAMS. Code inspectors were encouraged to continue their fieldwork as part of the PACE safety team. Since then, approximately 83% of support and administrative code staff were able to successfully work remotely. Currently, about 93% of Code Inspectors continue to work out in the field, working to keep our community safe and livable for all.
When we educate our communities, we learn how to keep each other and our city safe.
The first step to prevent code violations is to know about them. Our educational priority is to help the community learn about city codes and regulations. We do this through a series of educational programs and community involvement. Want to test your knowledge of local codes and ordinances? Take our Code Education Survey!
Outreach & Awareness
This fiscal year, we attended 72 community events and neighborhood meetings. During the events we share information on how to keep our homes and surroundings safe. We also listened to interest groups, community members, and attended neighborhood meetings. After the pandemic began, many outreach initiatives shifted to a virtual setting. Request a Code Speaker today!
Dedicated Phone Line
Our dedicated phone line, Code Connect, provides direct access to bilingual code inspectors. The inspectors can answer general questions about codes. They also provide resource guidance and give updates on their existing cases. In fiscal year 2020, the program averaged 21 calls per day, 425 calls per month, which equaled to a total of 6,239 calls. Give Code Connect a call at (512) 974-CODE (2633).
New Video and Podcast Series
To illustrate the work that our code inspectors do, we developed the “My Story as a Code Inspector” video and podcast series. This is an innovative way to connect with Austin residents and shed light on the value of the work done by code inspectors within the community. Each episode contains a personal interview with a code inspector about a code case that had a profound impact on their life. This series is shared throughout multiple online platforms to provide knowledge that engages with multiple residents and keeps the department's educational efforts at the forefront. Visit the Austin Code Department's YouTube channel to view our videos!
Connecting with the public in their preferred language is important to us. This year, we budgeted $45,000 for language access services. This means that staff members have the ability to communicate with the public. We now support dozens of languages. Our staff uses over-the-phone interpretation services and remote video interpretation services. Our teams are also staffed with at least one Spanish-speaking staff per team.
Educating The Community
We introduced quarterly campaigns with an educational component designed to raise awareness about common code violations. Some of these topics are tall grass and weeds, illegal dumping, dangerous structures, and more.
The department received the 2019 American Association of Code Enforcement (AACE) Creative Marketing Award for Austin Code's virtual reality tool. This helps residents see through the eyes of a code inspector working to identify common code violations. Also, the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers (TAMIO) Award of Excellence for Best Recurring Community Event for the Spooktacular Bash.
Together, we ensure the safe, healthy, and legal uses of Austin lands and properties
Austin Code collaborates with City representatives and community members. Our goal is to increase awareness of local codes and ordinances. When we work together as a community, we help to ensure Austin is safe and livable. Want to help us develop content that better serves our residents? Get in touch!
Collaborative Service Design
Austin Code works with the community to design materials that meet residents' needs. In FY20, we collaborated on the:
- Improved Repeat Offender Program webpage
- New! Code inspection guide
- New! HVAC procedures
- New! Virtual code inspection pilot
Code inspectors collaborate with property owners to bring their properties into compliance. Inspectors send a Notice of Violation outlining what needs to be fixed. They work with property representatives to address the issue and bring their properties into compliance.
We extend our sincere thanks to those who invested their time to complete the survey. The purpose of the survey is to identify areas where we are currently succeeding. The survey also serves as a guide to highlight areas where our department could improve. Austin Code selected ETC Institute as our independent partner for administering this survey and they have presented their results to us which we, in turn, make available for your review.
More of our community engagement shifted to virtual settings on FY2020. We coordinated more online meetings, virtual code training, and video user feedback sessions. This allowed us to stay connected to the stakeholders and the communities we serve.
Delivering fair, equitable and transparent enforcement of city codes.
Code By The Numbers
Total number of code cases investigated: 38,180
Total number of confirmed code violations: 14,282
Number of confirmed violation cases escalated to Building Standards Commission: 90
Average Numbers of Days Until First Response: 2.07
The department conducted 75,403 inspections during FY20. When a violation is confirmed, the code inspector works with the responsible parties to educate and guide the property owner to achieve compliance.
The goal with any code case is to achieve voluntary compliance to ensure public safety. During FY20, three in every four properties achieved voluntary compliance without the need for further escalation.
If a code violation does not get resolved then the final step taken is enforcement. Quasi-judicial proceedings include the Building and Standards Commission, Administrative Hearings, Municipal Court, and District Court.
During FY20, the department added 19 properties to the Repeat Offender Program (ROP). This rental registration program monitors properties with repeat code violations.
We issue many types of licenses that are not just STR licenses. Owners of Short-Term Rentals (STRs) are required to obtain an operating license annually. This law applies to all properties (including rooms and guest houses) rented for less than 30 consecutive days.
The Austin Code Licensing team issued a total of 2,615 STR licenses. The team made important process improvements, including going entirely paperless and creating a new process for license denials.
Remote Administrative Hearing
Our Administrative Hearing program underwent a significant transformation in 2020 to improve its internal and external processes. New Standard Operating Procedures are in place for an improved streamlined process. Educational tools like a training manual, a citation tutorial, flyers, and an improved website are now available to the public.
Due to COVID-19, Administrative Hearings paused on March 13, 2020, and resumed July 14, 2020. Currently, Hearing Officers, code inspectors, and cited property owners have the opportunity to appear virtually or in person. Those not able to hold virtual hearings have the opportunity to appear in person. To ensure compliance with COVID-19 regulations, we practice social distancing, disinfecting, and mask-wearing as we continue to provide uninterrupted services.
The Building and Standards Commission (BSC) was established to hear cases concerning alleged violations of the City's housing and dangerous building regulations. The Commission members meet to hear cases involving appeals and substandard or dangerous properties. The Commission complies with its mission to hear and act on cases that result in eliminating dangerous conditions at properties throughout the city.
Suspension and Revocation Process
The department implemented the Suspension & Revocation process for Repeat Offender Program. Suspension is an enforcement tool provided under Austin City Code § 4-14-50(A). This results in the loss of ability to lease vacant units until issues are corrected. Current tenants are not affected.
Your money at work
Being safe in your home, work and community is a shared responsibility that every Austin resident invests in. Austinites pay a monthly Clean Community Fee for services that keep Austin clean and enhance the livability of our neighborhoods and the downtown area.
FY 2020 $27 Million Budget by Program
- Investigations and Compliance: $11,379,646
- Involuntary Code Enforcement: $3,229,383
- Support Services: $6,709,945
- Transfers and Others: $5,858,975
- Total: $27,177,949