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Casar proposes ADU policy revision timeline

Monday, July 27, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

Amid a public outcry for more available housing, City Council is reconsidering restrictions on accessory dwelling units such as granny flats and garage apartments. Council Member Greg Casar has proposed an approach to that review that considers related issues, including short-term rental regulations and parking requirements.

Casar suggested Wednesday that the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee, which he chairs, divide the issue into two different discussions and that Council approve the ordinance that will make many of the ADU revisions on two additional readings.

Council already approved a draft of the ordinance on first reading on June 18.

“It’s important to note that the ADU reforms we’re considering involve multiple departments, and are not limited to land development code changes,” Casar wrote on the Council message board. “We’ll do our best to make clear in our committee report which recommended changes require ordinance changes, and which would require separate Council resolutions.”

For the first phase of the process, Casar suggested that the committee discuss possible financing and loan programs for ADU construction, pre-approved designs that could enable faster processing, short-term rental regulations and parking requirements at its Aug. 17 meeting. The committee would then send a recommendation to Council for approval on second reading.

For the second phase, Casar suggested that the committee discuss structure and lot-size regulations, processes for neighborhoods to opt in or out of the new policies, issues related to water utility metering and fees, affordability requirements and housing preservation incentives at its Sept. 21 meeting. Council would subsequently approve the ordinance on final reading.

Casar commented on the proposal in an interview with the Austin Monitor on Thursday. “My hope is that we can take a balanced approach to making it easier for folks to build accessory dwelling units, and that’s going to take more than just reforming the driveway requirements or more than just dealing with the issues with the water utility,” he said.

“I have high expectations, because we have to do big things when we’re talking about reforming land use and the way that we develop as a city.

“My gut sense is that this is one issue where my committee members will be able to do a lot of the work for the full Council and help digest this work for the full Council, and hopefully (it) will be a good example,” Casar continued. “I hope that, with such a complicated issue, we can show off why we made the committees in the first place.”

The ordinance that Council passed on first reading allows residents to build accessory dwelling units 5 feet closer to their homes, gives them more flexibility regarding where on their lots they build the units and bans residents from using them as Type 2 short-term rentals.

According to the city’s website, these types of rentals take place in structures that are “not owner-occupied or associated with an owner-occupied principal residence.”

The ADU ordinance, which includes other changes, will likely be revised by the time it reaches final approval.

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