City Council may ease restrictions on accessory dwelling units

Christine Minnehan sweeps up in front of her "granny flat" located in the backyard of her Sacramento, Calif home Thursday, June 27, 2002. Despite opposition from cities and environmentalists, a measure is moving through the Legislature that would make it easier to build the small backyard or above-garage units touted nationally for older relatives, college students and other renters. Minnehan is living in her "granny flat" while she has her house renovated.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Christine Minnehan sweeps up in front of her "granny flat" located in the backyard of her Sacramento, Calif home Thursday, June 27, 2002. Despite opposition from cities and environmentalists, a measure is moving through the Legislature that would make it easier to build the small backyard or above-garage units touted nationally for older relatives, college students and other renters. Minnehan is living in her "granny flat" while she has her house renovated.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin’s population continues to grow, the need for more housing grows with it.

Building secondary dwellings, also known as a “granny flats,” is a potential solution. However, it requires jumping through some hoops.

At their Thursday meeting, Austin City Council will consider a resolution to cut regulatory barriers to accessory dwelling units that are less than 500 square feet.

Austin homeowner Michael Worchel built a secondary residence in his backyard about a year ago.

“Good enough for me! I’ve been living here for over a year,” Worchel said. “I think this is a very modern way to live. Its clean, open, efficient and has everything I need.”

His home is 340 square feet, and his front yard is also a backyard. But building his simple home wasn’t so simple.

Worchel had to spend more than $1,000 to follow city regulations. It also put the project behind.

“There were quite a few hoops to jump through,” Worchel said. “The more hoops you have to jump through… the more changes you have to make during the process… the longer it takes to finish the project. I did have to get temporary housing for a few weeks because of delays.”

The secondary dwelling must be 15 feet from the house. The lot must be 7,000 square feet, and you are required to have a paved parking spot. The parking spot must be 17 ft long and 8 1/2 feet wide. When the city came to inspect Worchel’s, it came up short, and he had to add six more inches.

The city will look at a resolution to amend these restrictions at Thursday’s meeting.

Jeremy Ellis, owner and designer with Kanga Room Systems, builds secondary dwellings for a living. He says these added costs can range from $3,000 to $10,000 for some homeowners.

“We’ve had to turn down several jobs because people simply cant find area to put a parking spot,” Ellis said.

If City Council approves the resolution on Thursday, the City Manager will move forward with an ordinance to reduce regulations on building secondary dwellings.

“I love living on my property in a brand new modern energy efficient modern space,” Worchel said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

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