Tiny homes on wheels could soon be considered permanent dwellings in single-family areas by Austin City Hall. MACKENZIE FRANK | COURIER

Austin Business Journal reports, "Austin homeowners may have an opportunity to transform their backyards and other open spaces into leasable dwellings as the local government works to create new options for affordable housing.

Austin City Council on Sept. 14 asked city staffers to draft an ordinance that would allow mobile tiny homes and recreational vehicles to be used as permanent residences in areas zoned for single-family housing. The draft of the code amendment is expected to be presented to Austin's Housing and Planning Committee and to Council by the end of November.

The effort would be another piecemeal change to Austin's land development code as city leaders work to eliminate barriers to creating additional housing. Affordability issues are at a fever pitch as the city faces a dearth of housing, exacerbated by a slowdown in new construction amid higher interest rates. City Hall is also implementing changes that relax regulations for traditional accessory dwelling units, allow residential housing on commercially zoned landreduce minimum lot sizes and more. Some changes have been met with resistance in the form of a lawsuit by a group of community representatives who previously stopped efforts to overhaul the code, which was written in the 1980s.

"This is just kicking off the process," District 8 Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis said during a Sept. 12 work session. "Once city staff brings back the actual amendments, we can go through them with a fine-tooth comb and make sure they meet the needs of all different kinds of folks and housing that we see in the community."

Currently, RVs and tiny homes on wheels are allowed to be parked on a property but cannot be used as permanent dwellings in areas zoned single family. RVs are also barred from having connections to the city’s sewer system and the power grid.

City code currently allows occupied RVs and mobile tiny homes within lots zoned for campground and mobile homes. Tiny homes without wheels can also be primary residences or accessory dwelling units on residential properties.

Austin already has an example of using tiny homes as a means for affordable housing. Nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes continues to expand its village of tiny homes to provide supportive housing for the formerly homeless.

"When I think about tiny homes, I think about the flexibility of people being able to add those spaces," Ellis said.

During the Sept. 14 meeting, District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly asked staffers to include a stipulation that units must be registered with the city if they would be used as short-term rentals.

"I'm getting questions from the community regarding the possible implications,” Kelly stated in a Sept. 11 Council memo.

District 4 Council Member José Vela also shared support for the change during the work session, noting it could create a relatively affordable alternative to the accessory dwelling units currently allowed under city code.

"We all know what the housing situation is — it is very expensive," he said. "There are a lot of folks living in small homes and RVs. ADUs are well above a quarter million dollars to design and to build and to permit. This is an item that could provide somebody a quick and easy way to add a unit to their home.""


Source: Austin Business Journal 

Written by: Mike Christen

Published: September 15, 2023


Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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