Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

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    • ADUs**, also known as garage apartments, granny flats, or backyard cottages make housing more affordable, improve tax base, provide income opportunities for homeowners, increase neighborhood diversity, and reduce sprawl - at no cost to taxpayers. ADUs should be allowed on every neighborhood lot in Austin.

The Problem

As written, the CodeNEXT draft does not easily allow the construction of the simplest form of infill. In 2015, Austin City Council allowed more ADUs to be built, and disappointingly, CodeNEXT has further restricted those amendments. Constraints such as setbacks, height limits, footprint requirements, and placement make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to build ADUs in both transect zones and new nontransect zones.


Comment Sections/Pages
The code should not mandate that the ADU have a smaller footprint, a narrower width, and a depth not greater than the primary building or to be smaller than the adjacent building. These provisions would frequently require older homes that are small and near the street to be torn down so that the new ADU can fit within the rules. Instead, we should eliminate this requirement so that the entire lot doesn’t have to be demolished and reconstructed—just the ADU behind the old, small house. 4D-2 pg 11

(p. 95)

The code should allow ADUs in front of or to the side of the primary unit. Again, depending on the placement of the older home on the lot, this could force the unit to be torn down to build an ADU. There’s no reason to mandate specific placement—especially when considering that some lots are not deep, but are wide. Allowing the ADU in the front could even allow some small old houses to be preserved: designate the existing small house as the ADU and build a larger house in the back. 4D-2 pg. 11

(p. 95)

The side, rear, and front setbacks leave very little room for an ADU on most lots. In particular, the 20’ rear setback is the same for the primary structure and the ADU where alleys do not exist.

The rear setback should be five or ten foot setbacks for the ADU. The code should encourage ADUs by allowing for smaller setbacks when an ADU is built.

4D-2 pg. 40

(p 124)

The restrictive covenant agreement requirement for the non-transect zone should be completely removed. It’s unenforceable and abhorrent, but will also significantly restrict the production of new units and creates a code enforcement nightmare for the owner and lender. For example, from the perspective of the lender, what happens if the property is foreclosed? How can the owner reside in one of the units? It may be safer for the lender to pass on the loan rather than possibly violate the covenant. What’s more, an occupancy requirement was specifically rejected by Austin City Council in the 2015 ADU reform ordinance. 4E-6 pg. 4 (p. 424)
Removing the restriction that ADUs aren’t allowed for large form houses. If the ADU can fit, it should be allowed. Why create that restriction and block more housing? 4D2, pg 10
ADUs shouldn’t have its own height restrictions— just rely on the primary building limits. Again, sometimes the ADU may be the “larger” unit when an old small home is preserved.