Cutting through red tape to enable more childcare facilities – could Austin become the standard bearer?
Could changing planning laws to allow for more childcare facilities in the U.S. city of Austin be a shining example for other cities to follow?
That’s the question being indirectly posed by councillors in the Texas state capital, as they consider easing current planning restrictions.
What might, on the surface, appear to be little more than a local issue, could have wider implications for city planners across the US – and who knows, even further afield.
Austin City Council is set to vote in a few days’ time on a resolution that would ease city ‘zoning’ constraints for child care facilities, according to the Austin-based KXAN news. It would also provide financial motivations for providers to build new or expand existing facilities in so-called ‘childcare desserts’.
The resolution is reported to have been put forward by Vanessa Fuentes, a member of Austin City Council, which would change Austin’s land development code. This code is essentially just a condition which determines how land can used throughout the city and what can or cannot be built.
‘Create more affordable child care’
This would lessen parking requirements, allow more young children in facilities in both commercial and residential day cares, while also creating a new zoning classification specifically for child care services.
The goal, according to quotes attributed to Fuentes, is to ‘create more affordable child care options for Austinites’, which is a real struggle for many parents. “Which is why, if we’re serious about addressing affordability, we have to make sure it’s easier to build child care centers so we have more options available,” she adds.
KXAN also highlights the experience of Anthony Carrillo and his wife, who have struggled to find childcare in Austin for their two young twin daughters. “It would be really hard to overstate the lack of quality care here in Austin – it was really difficult to find everything that we wanted and it was so expensive that the schools we really liked had a huge waitlist.”
So the Carrillo family decided to become part of the solution, creating the Mockingbird Microschool in a residential area in south Austin. “It was a lot more of a process than I thought. There’s two things: State of Texas requirements and the city requirements. and one of the big issues is those two don’t match up,” Carrillo said.
The hope is that the door may be opened to more facilities if the zoning regulations are, indeed, changes to make them more ‘child care friendly’. Austin City Council is due vote on the resolution on Thursday 26 January.