Austin City Council votes to change rules on granny flats

Ashley Goudeau

AUSTIN -- Having a small apartment over the garage or in the backyard seemed like the perfect fix for Brennan Griffin's family.

"We having an aging father-in-law who has talked about wanting to move nearby. We have, his grandson is two years old now, and it would be fun to have a place for him to stay behind us," said Griffin.

But building an auxiliary dwelling, or granny flat, isn't as easy as Griffin hoped.

"The current rules we would have to somehow get a driveway past our house, which is situated on the lot you can't actually get the driveway passed, we'd have to pave over a good chunk of our yard," Griffin said.

The Austin City Council decided at its meeting Thursday to look at changing the regulations to make it easier for people to build granny flats 500 square feet or less. But their decision isn't without opposition.

"Why have a code in the first place if all one wants to do is dismantle it at every opportunity," said Austin Neighborhood Council (ANC) President Mary Ingle.

Members of the ANC rallied before the vote, arguing changing the rules would lead to parking issues and overcrowding since parking spaces and driveways won't be required and that it would increase the cost of living.

"Building a second unit costs money and then it increases people's property taxes which in turn, impact rents," said Ingle.

Council Member Chris Riley, who sponsored the item on the agenda, disagrees and says its a step in the right direction.

"We're not talking about coming and plunking in big new apartment complexes in the middle of neighborhoods, we're talking about seeing if we can allow a little invisible density that very discretely provides a few more opportunities for affordable housing," said Riley.

A public input process will now begin on changing those regulations. Riley hopes an item will be ready for the council in 120 days.


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