Last night, Austin City Council passed a resolution to initiate the process of reducing regulatory barriers Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as garage apartments, granny flats or in-law apartments. These barriers are typically parking requirements, but they can also impervious cover restrictions that are triggered by the required parking, or a requirement to hack down all the trees to make room for the parking. For a great example of these types of hassles, see Julie Montgomery’s statement before Austin City Council.
Here’s my statement to Austin City Council in support of ADUs:
38 years ago, my parents lived in a tiny no-bedroom garage apartment. Mom walked to work. She was a teller at the bank a few blocks away. Dad was finishing up grad school. They had so little extra spending money that they knew Tuesday’s paper had the Burger King coupon for buy one, get one free, so they could have double date night with a similar young married couple.
They couldn’t afford much, but they could afford that tiny no-bedroom apartment.
15 years ago, I lucked into a tiny in-law apartment, right around the time I was terrified I might have to move back in with my parents. They had since moved on from the tiny no-bedroom apartment, but still.
It was all I could afford at the time. Because I could manage the rent without stressing out, I was able to build up my enough freelance design business to the point where I could quit the job I hated.
I couldn’t afford much, but my tiny apartment afforded me economic opportunity.
Reducing barriers to in-law apartments, granny flats or garage apartments is low hanging fruit when it comes to improving affordability in Austin.
There are people drowning in this city right now. Drowning under rising rents. Drowning under rising property taxes. Drowning under hours spent sitting in traffic.
But every time there is a proposal that would help ease the strain on people, a small yet vocal group comes out of the woodwork to oppose it. They distract the lifeguards. They yank away the life preservers.
Most galling of all, some of them have granny flats of their own. That’s like wearing a life jacket and telling someone who’s trying to keep their head above water, “Don’t come up too fast, or you might get the bends.”
I urge you. Please vote for this measure. I live on a street with 4 garage apartments. My neighbors and I welcome them as equals, because we’ve all been there. Some are some young professionals and one young couple with an herb garden that’s doing way better than mine.
Maybe 15 years in the future, there will be 5 garage apartments on my street. One over my garage, where I didn’t have to pave a chunk of my small yard as a requirement for building a place for my retired parents to live…A place they could live without worrying about rising rents. But that will only happen if we start moving forward today. Thank you.