More Lenient Rules on Way for Garage Apartments in Austin

Building an income property may be easier for Austinites in the near future. On Monday, the city's Planning and Neighborhoods Committee recommended a list of changes to current restrictions for so-called granny flats or garage apartments. Our Jeff Stensland explains what this means for Austin's housing demands.

Affordability has been Austin's buzzword for the past five years.  It's driving discussion about how to ease housing costs for renters and owners.

Advocates say accessory dwelling units or ADUs could be the answer.

Austin's Planning and Neighborhoods Committee delved into the issue Monday.

Ricky Hennessy with Friends of Hyde Park says his neighborhood group found parking requirements to be unnecessary for small ADUs that are close to transit.

"Based on these findings, I think it makes sense that we require no additional parking for ADUs less than or equal to 400 square feet, and one spot for ADUs larger than 400 square feet," said Hennessy.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo says the Planning Commission recommended a package of changes that should not be broken up by the City Council.

"Supporting a loosening of those restrictions -- particularly those with regard to parking -- has been dependent on that maximum size," said Tovo.

At least one parking spot will be required for all new units, if the main home has parking on the property already.

Older homes are exempt.

The committee also recommends allowing larger secondary homes if they still keep 55 percent of the lot open.

Heidi Gerbracht is with the Real Estate Council of Austin, a group representing area developers.

She says nonprofits like Goodwill and the National Alliance on Mental Illness support the relaxed rules.

"I think it is an interesting collaboration. I think a lot of folks in town have a lot of interest in making ADUs more possible throughout the city," said Gerbracht.

A poll last spring found almost 60 percent of Austinites support easier ways to add density.

The grassroots group, AURA, estimates Austin could see 500 new ADUs built every year with the relaxed rules.

The City Council will have the final say next month.

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