Austin neighborhood groups talk the talk about wanting income diversity in all areas of town, but when even a modest proposal comes up to vote, there's always an issue with "this particular" change. For way too long, affordable housing has been crammed into East Austin instead of being equitably spread out. Allowing tiny homeowner-built “granny flats” in every neighborhood is a painless way to get affordable housing in every neighborhood, without using up scarce tax money to build a big housing complex on expensive land [“Council: Everything That Fits
,” News, June 13].
Neighborhood associations want an "opt out" option, but they have "opted out" of affordable housing on their blocks for too, too long. Given the opportunity, they will continue to make selfish excuses (parking! neighborhood character!) just as Austin Neighborhoods Council leadership is currently doing to oppose the building code change to allow homeowners to build garage apartments by default.
Just look at the years-long struggles of Mobile Loaves & Fishes trying to house the homeless. Everyone supports their housing project "in theory" but not in reality, not if it's in their neighborhood. We are talking less than 500 square-feet here – these units aren't going to house tech millionaires. They are going to house students, performers, artists, cooks, bartenders, retired and disabled people on fixed incomes, teachers, and day care workers. They are going to house nurses and the person who brings you your beer at the Alamo Drafthouse or your taco at Torchy's.
Lack of affordable housing is a big issue, and it will take both public and private money to make a dent. No one is forcing you to build a garage apartment in your backyard, but if you feel that your privilege extends to denying your neighbor the ability to provide housing in their backyard, you need to take a long hard look in the mirror and have an honest conversation about where your personal control ends and societal good begins.
I hope you will join me in supporting Council Member Chris Riley's proposed code change.