Statement on the McMansion Ordinance and the recent Planning and Development Review Memo

AURA, a grassroots group that believes in an Austin for Everyone, calls on the city council to rethink the McMansion ordinance.  As the memo from the Development and Services Department and the Planning and Zoning Department on May 1 clearly shows, the complexity of McMansion has added significantly to backlogs, and is in part responsible for the $1.6 million budget hike being proposed for the next calendar year in that department.

The McMansion Ordinance was theoretically designed to keep large houses from being built in central Austin and preserve neighborhood character.  Problems abound with its approach, however. It privileges large lots over small lots by restricting the amount of square footage of house versus yard.  It makes it very difficult to build duplexes. The geometric “envelope” that it prescribes forces many builders into odd workarounds and blocky construction.  It is unfriendly to families, because it makes it difficult or impossible to build larger 3 or 4 bedroom homes on the smaller lots that make up many Central Austin neighborhoods.  The McMansion Ordinance was a flawed attempt to legislate aesthetics, and its main impact has been to reduce the amount of housing being built in central Austin.

AURA calls on the City Council to reconsider the McMansion Ordinance, up to and including repealing it altogether.  In a housing shortage and affordability crisis, excess complexity and reductions in the amount of housing, especially for families, is unconscionable.