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Austin Code Department Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report
ed

The mission of the Austin Code Department is to build a safer and greater Austin together through code education, collaboration, and enforcement.

Welcome

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.


Responding
to Winter Storm Uri

This gif shows an icon of a snowflake rotating over the statistic, there were 773 code inspections as a result of 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.
A room covered in construction material and debris showing substandard housing. Exposed piping and walls without any drywall.
Looking into an electrical closet shows water pipes broken from the freezing weather. One orange pipe lies on the ground broken into two pieces. Outside the closest the ground is covered in snow.
Overlooking an apartment open air parking lot at night, the cars and the ground are covered in snow, the sky looks orange and more snow swirls in the air.
Looking through the windshield of a car as it drives down a suburban street, the pavement is covered in snow except where previous cars have driven, leaving tire tracks. Trees, houses, stop signs, and sidewalks are shown covered in snow
 Shot through the windshield of a car driving on a highway, this picture shows a shopping center covered in snow. On the car inches of snow has accumulated on the hood of the car.




Adapted Services
for COVID-19

Continuing Service 

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.
The front door to the Code Department’s main offices. On the door there is an etching reading, “Austin Code Department” with the city seal above it. Taped onto the door is a poster reading, “help us stay open, masks required” with the picture of a face mask.
A male code inspector works on his laptop computer inside of his code truck. The inspector is wearing navy blue uniform pieces including a hat and polo shirt. His eyes are covered by sunglasses, and he is typing on his computer.
Two male code inspectors work together at an outside location. One code inspector on the left of the image wears a navy blue hat and khaki uniform shirt with a burnt orange face mask. On the right side another code inspector wearing a navy blue hat and blue uniform polo with an orange “Texas” face mask. The two inspectors are looking out of frame and gesturing with their hands, suggesting they are speaking to a third person.
Overlooking the left shoulder of a female code inspector who is working on her laptop inside her code truck. The inspector has her brown hair in a ponytail, and tattoos are visible on her forearm.
A station within the Code Department’s financial services room is shown. The station has a place for a financial code employee to sit behind a clear window in front of a seat for a member of the public to sit in. On the window it reads “Cashier,” the walls are painted blue and the ceiling is green.
A closeup of a poster inside the Code Department’s offices reading “Practice social distancing, keep a minimum of 6 feet from other people.” The text is in white on a red background.



IPMC Adoption

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.


Education

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.
A blue icon of a geolocation pin bounces on top of a statistic reading, “80 community and neighborhood meetings.”

Community Meetings

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

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).
A blue icon of a phone with moving semi circles around it showing the phone is ringing. Below is a statistic reading, “6,553 total code connect calls.”

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).
The first slide of Code Director José G. Roig’s presentation to the America Association of Code Enforcement Conference. The slide is white on top and orange on bottom with text reading “The evolution of code enforcement responsibilities. Presenter: José G. Roig, director, Austin Code Department.”


Collaboration

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.
At the community Hall-O-Scream event, a male code inspector smiles and hands a bag of candy and Code swag to a small child dressed as Wonder Woman. The code inspector is wearing a navy blue uniform with hat, polo, and khaki pants.
At a National Night Out event a male code inspector hands out Code swag to a young boy and his mother. The code inspector is wearing a navy uniform with hat, polo, and khaki pants, and he is also wearing a face mask. The boy is wearing a blue shirt and black backpack with a face mask, his mother wears a blue shirt and face mask.

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.

Community Meetings

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.
At a National Night Out event a female code inspector hands out Code swag to a small boy at the department’s table. The table is covered in swag including face masks, sunglasses, and light up rings. The inspector wears a blue uniform including a polo and khaki pants, the boy wears a red shirt and blue backpack.
An icon of paper with a list on a clipboard is checked off by a green highlighter. Above the paper says “Voluntary compliance” below the clipboard is a statistic reading “85% of single-family homes and 90% of multi-family homes” saying that those percentages of homes came into code compliance voluntarily.

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.
This image coordinates with the next image showing a case before and after compliance was achieved. This image shows the before, a plot of land shows trash stacked up on the curb. The trash includes broken furniture, a chair and a couch and other unidentifiable trash.
This image shows the after coordinating with the before picture. This shows the same plot of land but there is no trash on the curb.

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.



Enforcement

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
An icon of a gavel hitting a sound block is above a statistic of 648 cases escalated to quasi/judicial proceedings.
An icon of a wrench inside a moving gear is above a statistic of 78% confirmed violation cases that met compliance.
An icon of magnifying glass moving in a circle is above a statistic of 34,100 total number of code violations inspected.
An icon of a piece of paper with a pencil moving on top of it putting more lines on the page is above the statistic of 3,568 total licenses issued.
The icon of a house with cracks appearing on it is above the statistic 84 repeat offender program properties.
A spinning icon of a snowflake is above the statistics of 773 winter storm Uri inspections.

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
clock with a red arm spinning around over text that says 1 day median response time
Icons of a green check mark above the statistic 92% percent of cases responded to within the timeframe.

Progressive Escalation

The outside of a meeting room in the Code Department offices on the door is an etching of the City of Austin seal and beneath it says “Hearing Room.”
Showing profile of a code employee speaking into a microphone at a building and standards commission meeting. This female employee is reading from a document into the microphone, more documents and a laptop computer is also in front of the employee.
Overlooking the shoulder of a code inspector seated at a desk in a municipal court room taking notes in a notepad. The inspector faces the docket which has elevated seating for the judge, who is not present. Behind the docket are the American and Texan flags, and a screen showing several people participating in the meeting via Zoom.
Administrative Hearing
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.
Municipal Court
 District Court
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
This is a pie graph showing the percentages of the Code Department’s budget expenditures. The breakdown is 43% spent on investigations and compliances, 27% spent on support services, 24% spent on other requirements and 6% spent on case review, preparation, and enforcement. The graph is colored blue, aqua, and yellow.
“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Dr. Brene Brown

Message From The Director

Dear Austin community,

At Austin Code, we value the power of working together and connectivity. 2021 was an extraordinary year by any measure as our communities continued facing challenges brought on by Covid-19 and its developing variants, as well as the aftermath of a devastating winter storm. During critical times like these, our dedicated staff shines as they successfully adapt, manage priorities, and solve problems that support the needs of our community. Still, we recognize this is only possible by staying connected with our communities to understand issues and develop solutions. It is by listening to our communities' needs that we can create meaningful work conducive to improvements. By facing challenges, we realize that we must lean on each other as a community to help each other overcome adversity. Most challenges come along with the opportunity to serve, grow, and share the stories of how we thrive as a community. I am proud of how our department continues to work together internally and with our community, stakeholders, and City partners to ensure that we address Austinites' needs. We continue to stand by our belief that 'together, we make the community better,' and this is possible as we continue to count on your support.

– José G. Roig
Director, Austin Code Department


View the pdf version of the Austin Code Department's 2021 Annual Report.