Austin City Council will soon decide whether or not to loosen restrictions to build ADUs.
An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a really simple and old idea – having a second small dwelling right on the same grounds (or attached to) your regular single-family house, such as an apartment over the garage or a tiny house in the backyard. They are sometimes also referred to as mother-in-law apartments, alley flats, garage apartments or guest houses.
Many Austin homes already have ADUs that were constructed years ago, before layers of regulations added up to create our current environment that discourages them. Since 2007, only 230 ADUs have been permitted and built in Austin. There are currently very strict requirements that discourage people from building ADUs, including requirements for off-street parking and minimum lot sizes. RECA believes that these strict requirements should be loosened to encourage the construction of more ADUs in all areas of the city.
Austin is currently in a housing crisis and new ADU’s would provide residents with additional affordable options. Newly built ADUs over the last five years have been affordable to a family of two making 80% of the median income and 57% of Austinites support lowering barriers to build small infill development, including ADUs.
Not only do ADUs encourage mixed income neighborhoods and give residents more options to live closer to their jobs, schools and services they enjoy, but they also improve the tax base and provide income opportunities for homeowners. College-age children, extended families and aging parents could also utilize ADUs and they also help reduce sprawl and alleviate traffic congestion.
Because of the regulatory barriers and complex land development code, only 230 ADUs have been permitted and built in Austin since 2007. Currently, owners who build an ADU need to add off-street parking spaces, even if their main house doesn’t have any and there’s ample on-street parking. Requiring an opt-in, significant parking, lot size and impervious cover limits all discourage the expansion of ADU availability in Austin.