Rowhouses (also know as townhomes, townhouses, or rowhomes) are an attached single-family housing product that can be owned in fee-simple. Each home is attached in a line of 3 or more to their neighbor’s walls standing side-by-side. Row homes were popular in cities before planning for the car came in vogue - and when compact and connected wasn’t just an aspirational goal, it was the way cities functioned. Historically, they’ve been associated with everything from work-force housing for the middle class to homes for upscale manses of the well-to-do.
The residential zoning codes in Austin prohibits row homes except in some specially designated small area plans such as the Mueller PUD and Crestview TOD.
Row homes are an excellent example of what is meant by “missing middle” housing.
They can provide the privacy that families like about single family homes but with more affordability. Neighborhoods with row homes are human scaled neighborhoods with sufficient density to support transit and small neighborhood friendly commercial activity.
While the draft code provides for row homes in a few of the transects, there are a number of technical problems making it unlikely we’ll see much use of this housing type outside of limited circumstances. Broadly - the following are things that must be changed in order to see this become a useful housing type.
Lack of Small Option
The draft code provides for Medium and Large Flavor Row Homes. These are multi-family structures, permitting up to three or four stories, with up to 3 units and an ADU per lot. They only appear in T4MS and T5 transects. The only significant difference between the Large and Medium flavor is the number of attached buildings that are permitted in a row.
A new Small flavor single unit 2 or 2.5 story version should be allowed through all the T4 transects as well as some of the T3 transects with other missing middle housing types.
Building Envelope and other Limitations
The building envelope is overly prescriptive, baking in unnecessary side and rear articulations. Row homes shouldn’t be complicated to code for - all that is needed is width dimension, height, setbacks and minimum lot size. The draft code should be revised to relax the proposed envelope.
The Medium and Large flavor Row Homes in the code require a minimum 14’ floor to ceiling height on the ground floor. This is expensive to build and also to heat and cool. The new Small flavor should require only an 9’ floor to ceiling height.
Though parking is reduced from current code, narrow lots have limited ability to provide on-site parking. As a result, parking still is a controlling limitation on multiple unit in the Medium and Large flavors. We recommend crediting one on-street parking space per building.
Narrow lot homes work well urban neighborhood context where rear access can be provided either on an alley or on a shared drive. Row homes should be mapped into neighborhoods that are urban in character or that the city would like to transition to be urban.
|Building Form / Envelope|
|Add a Small Rowhouse flavor for the T4N.IS and T4N.SS as well as T3N.DS and T3N.IS transects.
|Permit Small Rowhouse flavor in T4MS in addition to Medium flavor||23-4D-2140 / pg 64|
|T4MS - allow run of up to 100’ (about 2 standard lots)||23-4D-2140 / pg 64|
|Allow a 5 story option of the Large Rowhouse on the T5U and T5MS.||23-4D-2140 / pg 64|
|Allow for a cottage court row homes in the Small Flavor for large/deep lots.||23-45-2060 / pg 13|
|Map row home zones into urban neighborhoods and transitional neighborhoods planned for more walkability. Limit to lots with rear access (via alley or shared front or side drive).|
|Permit up to one curb cut per 100' frontage of row house units.|
|Relax the Building Envelope|
|Applicable to all Row Homes - Eliminate Depth Requirement - setbacks and lot width are sufficient to control form. If must limit density, do so with lot size.||
Subsections C in sections:
|Eliminate side building and rear wing articulations.
|Credit 1 on-street parking space per building towards parking minimums.||
|Consider eliminating parking minimums on the Main Street transects.||
|Eliminate Length of Runs - just limit the units in a row to control massing.