McMansion Ordinance Is Not One-Size-Fits-All

RECEIVED Sat., Jan. 5, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Having lived in East Austin for the past eight years, I must say that “Hollywood” Henderson and I share concern about importing the McMansion ordinance east of the highway ["Hollywood vs. Ocean: Be There!” News, Jan. 4]. While the ordinance might prevent supersizing old-growth, upper-crust suburbs, I worry that the ordinance may inadvertently discourage denser development on the Eastside, which will result in fewer affordable-housing units being built in our neighborhoods.
    Many lots in my neighborhood (Rosewood) have been zoned to accommodate two homes or a home with a garage apartment. For example, my house is currently 1,500 square feet and houses three people. In lieu of building a garage, behind my home is a 900-square-foot residence that houses three people. The back house sold for 26% less than my home, creating additional housing for a lower-income household, and it doubled the density for my lot. By limiting construction to 40% of a lot, many developers will simply build the one larger home (e.g., 2,000 square feet) for a high-end buyer and will not build a second structure or garage apartment suitable for students, middle-class families, or home studio/offices.
    If our neighborhood (and city) is serious about promoting density and prohibiting obscene houses, we should focus on how tall the structures are and how much clearance there must be from the curb and in between houses and establish higher density thresholds for multistructure projects. Focusing on lot percentages alone will do nothing more than ensure that additional density is squashed.
Lonny Stern
Hope Street Group
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