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Austin City Council votes to expand use of accessory apartments to develop affordable housing

The council loosed certain restrictions on the smaller dwellings in an effort to create housing for lower and moderate income homeowners and renters.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council moved closer to creating more affordable housing in the city at a Thursday meeting by voting to remove certain restrictions on accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

ADUs, which are generally smaller, secondary living units attached to a primary home or on the same property as a primary home, are being explored by the council as a means to develop housing for low-to-moderate income families. The resolution addresses the use of ADUs and facilities their construction.

Thursday's vote comes in part from a June 2021 memorandum that includes recommendations on how to make ADUs more accessible to lower income families and individuals. The resolution passed addresses the recommendations made in the memo and directs the city manager to move forward on putting the recommendations into action.

The resolution passed Thursday loosens restrictions on the dwellings, including those related to age, ability, occupation or family status and the use of a converted garage. 

The current code has limiting restrictions that require at least one of the occupants to be a person who is aged 60 or older or is disabled. The code also states that if space in the primary dwelling is converted into an ADU, the ADU may not include a converted garage space or a new entrance visible from the street. The council voted to remove those restrictions. 

Thursday's approved resolution also begins the process of changing the city code to expand approved spaces for ADUs and, as part of that process, instructs the city manager to consider the sizes of ADUs bases on lot size and work on expediting the process for homeowners who wish to construct income-restricted ADUs. It also requires regulations designed to restrict the use of these smaller dwellings as short-term rentals in the areas where they will soon be allowed. 

City staff will also create a list of pre-approved building plants for detached ADUs with the input of community members who would benefit from the ADUs, like low and moderate income homeowners and renters along with design professionals. 

Action taken as a result of the resolution's approval will be presented to the council starting early next year.

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