Austin Code Department Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report
The mission of the Austin Code Department is to build a safer and greater Austin together through code education, collaboration, and enforcement.
Thank you for the opportunity to share Austin Code’s Annual Report for the Fiscal Year 2021. Austin Code continued to face challenges associated with COVID-19, which extended into its second year. In mid-February 2021, Austin experienced Winter Storm Uri. This winter weather event left many without power for days, affected travel, and caused structural damages.
The impact of this storm caused physical and emotional trauma throughout our community. Through severe damages from Winter Storm Uri, we remained focused on responding to every call for service received. The department worked with property owners to ensure a prompt response to lack of services and structural damages. We invite you to read about our performance this year, not only during Winter Storm Uri but beyond. We hope you are pleased with our accomplishments.
to Winter Storm Uri
Winter Storm Uri brought 164 hours of freezing temperatures and broke the record for most consecutive days of grounded snow. The storm left up to 40 percent of Austin residents without power, with some outages lasting as long as 72 hours. As pipes burst and roads froze, many residents were in homes without access to food or water.
The Austin Code Department mobilized to address close to 800 storm-related code complaints. The department worked with City partners to help the community recover. Code Inspectors were part of a critical team assisting with emergency water distribution. Code also worked to identify and mitigate needs across the city.
Austin Code staff developed a Winter Storm Uri Dashboard which helped visualize damages through the city. This dashboard includes geographical maps and updated filters to sort cases by City Council district. To support the use of this tool, ACD created a Winter Storm Uri database tutorial to help the public navigate the dashboard.
Adapted Services for COVID-19
In 2021, Austin Code continued to face challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic extending into its second year. Code staff continued working socially distant or remotely as part of the department’s commitment to public health and safety.
Code inspectors continued property inspections to meet the public demand and address property maintenance needs. For their safety, inspectors worked out of their vehicles, wore face masks, offered virtual inspections as needed, and maintained physical distance.
Updating local codes and ordinances
The International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) is a model code that regulates the minimum maintenance requirements for existing residential and commercial buildings. ACD collaborated with other City partners to present the International Code Council’s (ICC) 2021 International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) for City Council adoption. The amendments required an action plan for the occupants in structures unsafe for human occupancy. (Section 111.1.3) The purpose is to ensure public safety and maintain consistency with other city codes.
This work involved a stakeholder engagement process with community partners. Some of these partners included Austin Women in Housing, Austin Apartment Association, Austin Board of Realtors, and Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA). This was instrumental in reinforcing constructive relationships with stakeholders. Austin City Council approved the proposed changes which took effect on September 1, 2021. For more information, view the official press release.
Strengthening community relations, awareness and understanding of local code requirements
Learning and understanding code violations are the first steps toward preventing them. Our priority in education is to teach the community about city ordinances and regulations. We do this through a variety of educational initiatives and by our efforts in community engagement. Our goal is to ensure Austin community members have access to the City of Austin’s programs, activities, services, and information.
This fiscal year staff attended 80 community events and neighborhood meetings. We reached out to residents, interest groups, and neighborhood associations. We shared tips on how to keep our homes and surroundings safe. As the pandemic continued, many outreach efforts continued in a virtual setting. When in-person interactions were required, Code continued to follow safety precautions.
Request a Code Speaker today to stay connected with Austin Code.
Proactive Educational Campaigns
We stay connected with Austin residents by continuing to inform them through relevant messaging to our community. We raise community awareness of common code violations, safety hazards, property maintenance, and ordinance requirements. This is done through proactive education, and some topics include tall grass and weeds, substandard housing, and carbon monoxide poisoning. We continue to explore making the information easy to understand and accessible for all communities.
Code Connect is our dedicated phone line that gives residents direct access to experienced code inspectors. By calling Code Connect, residents can address general questions about code cases, get resource recommendations, updates on their current cases, and ordinance information. In the fiscal year 2021, the program received a total of 6,553 calls. Give Code Connect a call at (512) 974-CODE (2633).
Sharing the Knowledge
Issues addressed by code enforcement departments vary from city to city. In efforts to best address the needs of residents, Austin Code listens and engages with the public to address local needs and demands. Our staff and leadership is often invited to share learning moments and best practices with other cities to help learn from one another. Most of our educational efforts are local but our lessons are applicable nation-wide. See the presentation made by Director José G. Roig at the 2021 American Association of Code Enforcement Conference (AACE).
Strengthening community relationships
"Together" is more than just a word at Austin Code. It is a key factor for how the department is able to achieve its mission of building a safer and greater Austin. Building and strengthening community relationships is essential to everything that Austin Code does. By listening to community leaders, residents, and civic groups we ensure that we understand issues and address concerns.
Advocacy & Interest Groups
Austin Code cultivates and supports constructive relationships with our stakeholders. Community partners such as Austin Women in Housing, Austin Apartment Association, Austin Board of Realtors, and Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA). Leadership and staff meet with interest groups to discuss and identify ways to help keep communities safe. The outcomes of these discussions lead to policy suggestions, process improvements, and area needs to improve communities.
To better serve our residents and address specific needs, Code Inspectors speak with neighborhoods and nonprofit groups. Inspectors educate about city codes and invite feedback on current needs. This leads to improving awareness and community partnerships and stronger relationships with community members.
Collaborating with Property Representatives
In FY21, 85 percent of single-family homes and 90 percent of multi-family homes achieved voluntary compliance. Voluntary compliance happens when property owners fix the issue without legal escalation. We attribute this success to the work inspectors do daily to connect with property owners and help them understand property maintenance codes to achieve compliance.
When a Code Inspector identifies a safety concern or code violation, they work with property owners to fix them. Inspectors speak to property owners to bring the issue to their attention, and identify steps needed to find resolution. By doing this, they are able to create a path to achieve compliance, and as a result residents are able to live in properties that are safe.
Short-Term Rental Program
Throughout the pandemic, Austin Code has continued to issue new short-term rental licenses. Code also issues license renewals. In FY21, Austin Code issued a total of 2,124 licenses. Once a resident submits an application, the short-term rental team begins the work. The team works with the applicant to make sure their property meets the requirements of the license which they have applied for. Learn more about the different types of short-term rentals.
Proactive STR Education
In FY21, Austin Code created more community education opportunities and proactive engagement including stakeholder meetings and educational webinars. We achieved this by creating a short-term rental webinar series and holding monthly stakeholder meetings. The webinars provided information and an opportunity for the community to ask questions. Stakeholder meetings gave the community a forum to learn more about short-term rental enforcement and the applicable regulations.
Delivering fair, equitable and transparent enforcement of city codes
Code By The Numbers
- Total number of code complaints investigated in FY21: 34,100
- Total number of confirmed code violations: 18,679
- Number of confirmed violation cases escalated to Building Standards Commission: 256
- Average Numbers of Days Until First Response: 1.86
Code Response Time
The Austin Code Department utilizes an automated system, which sets clear expectations for response times to customer concerns. Response times are set based on considerations such as time-sensitivity and risks to life safety.
- 1 Hour - Emergency - Imminent Danger / Life-Safety
- 1 Day - Urgent - High-Risk Hazard / Time Sensitive
- 3 Days - Unsafe - Land Use / Structural
- 4 Days - Maintenance - Property Maintenance / Use
- 5 Days - Nuisance - Other Violations such as Tall Grass and Standing Water
Administrative hearings are quasi-judicial proceedings overseen by an administrative hearing officer. In FY 2021, the department oversaw 465 cases escalated to administrative hearing.
Building and Standards Commission
Another related city agency is the Building Standards Commission (BSC). This Commission was established to hear cases concerning violations of City’s housing and dangerous building regulations. Its ten members are appointed by each City Council Member.
If the property continues to violate City ordinances more violations and citations can be issued. Once three citations have liable verdicts the case is escalated to Municipal Court. If Municipal Court finds the owner liable in two situations the case is escalated to District Court.
Your Investment at Work
Austin Code Budget
- Investigations and Compliance: $11,730,441
- Case Review, Preparation, and Enforcement: $1,620,513
- Support Services: $7,675,459
- Other Requirements: $6,598,610
- Total in FY21: $27,625,023