Fight Housing Crisis by Legalizing Backyard Cottages Everywhere

For Immediate Release

AURA Calls on Austin City Council to Fight Housing Crisis by Legalizing Backyard Cottages Everywhere
New report released today demonstrates that new rules can create thousands of of new affordable homes

June 8, 2015
Austin, Texas

AURA, a grassroots non-profit that works toward an Austin for Everyone, calls on City Council to adopt a comprehensive ordinance that gives all homeowners across the city the option to build a backyard cottage (also known as an Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADUs). Simplified rules proposed by AURA will lower the cost of new small homes, allow more of them in every neighborhood, and help Austinites struggling with housing costs to get more revenue from their homes or to rent an affordable home.

AURA’s new report, “ADU City: How Granny Flats and Garage Apartments Can Save Austin” (embedded below) demonstrates that newly constructed backyard cottages offer natural market-rate affordability for households making 80% of the median family income in the Austin area, that Austin can expect at least 500 new accessory dwelling units constructed each year if AURA’s suggested ordinance is adopted, that backyard cottages are an important tool to fight gentrification, stabilize neighborhoods, and build affordable housing, and that ADUs can even directly fight sprawl-based traffic congestion. As AURA Board Member Brennan Griffin says, “Austin voters demanded more affordability in November, and our report lays out a substantial first step towards delivering it.”

Tomorrow, June 9th, AURA will host a rally and press conference at noon at City Hall. Later, at 2pm, the City Council Planning and Neighborhoods Committee will consider code amendments on accessory dwellings for the first time. AURA Member Mary Pustejovsky says “Committee Chairman Gregorio Casar wants more affordable housing for Austin, and I think AURA’s proposal is an excellent first step in making that happen.”  More than 750 Austinites have signed AURA’s petition asking City Council to address this issue head-on. AURA calls on all Austinites to join us and demand this action on affordability now.

Michael Gatto, Co-Director of the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC), which manages the Alley Flat Initiative, a program to develop green affordable accessory dwellings, says, “ACDDC is pleased to support AURA’s proposal for a more comprehensive accessory dwelling ordinance, and is particularly excited to join in the call for a new financing program to extend the natural affordability of ADUs to benefit more low-income Austinites, both homeowners and renters alike.”

AURA’s report contains the personal stories of Austinites who stand to benefit from City Council actions or already benefit from existing ADUs, like David Longoria, a local musician who lives in an affordable garage apartment, Jesse Alvarado and his wife, who, after raising six children, built and moved into a backyard cottage on their East Cesar Chavez property and invited their daughter to raise her child in their front house. AURA Member Tommy Ates, who lives in an ADU in Hyde Park, says “I believe we need more homes that are affordable to the average household inside our central neighborhoods, not just along major traffic corridors.” His small central home makes it possible for him to live in town. “Rather than retreating from the neighborhood, we are in the heart of it,” Ates continues. “And I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

AURA Board Member Amy Hartman notes that “Both homeowners and renters can benefit from this common-sense approach to neighborhood density. Granny flats can help provide more tax revenue for the city while reducing the tax burden for individuals. With simpler granny flat rules, more low-income families could afford to stay in Austin.”