Microblog #116: Progress in a Pandemic

Photo source: Austin Alley Flat Initiative / Community Powered Workshop

211 words

Austin housing advocates challenge the common wisdom that everything in Texas must be bigger.

Since its start 15 years ago, the Austin Alley Flat Initiative has slowly chipped away at barriers preventing homeowners from easily and affordably creating accessory dwelling units. This month, in the face of COVID-19, the Initiative made its biggest stride yet: an omnibus reform package to reduce tax burdens and streamline the permitting process.

The Alley Flat Initiative, a collaboration between the University of Texas and local community development nonprofits, serves as a resource for homeowners who are interested in constructing accessory dwelling units in their backyards. According to the Initiative, there are thousands of parcels in Austin that could support ADUs. These “alley flats” help increase the supply of affordable rental homes and provide homeowners with supplemental income streams.

Proponents hope this milestone serves as a release valve for the increasingly unaffordable housing market in Austin. The urgency to “do something” is strong, especially as the city’s effort to rewrite the zoning code to allow more housing hit a major legal challenge in March when it was just yards from the goal line.

In the end, advocates hope that even if they can’t keep Austin weird, they can at least keep it affordable. To learn ways you can help keep your neighborhood affordable, visit our Messaging and Overcoming NIMBY toolkits.

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