Garage apartments may be the worst-kept secret in our neighborhood. While they require special zoning from the Board of Adjustment, seemingly few homeowners seek that exemption. Instead, many just put up a “For Rent” sign and start accepting tenants.
Today, the City of Dallas is considering easing its own restrictions to make it easier for homeowners to take in renters on their single-family property. The goal is to boost the affordable housing stock in a city where affordable housing is tricky at best, as the Dallas Morning News noted this week. But the need exists, council members have said, in a city where rents are rising and 48 percent of renters already live in “unaffordable” housing.
“The goal is to make it a little easier for firefighters and teachers and police officers to live in our neighborhood,” East Dallas Councilman Mark Clayton said last fall as he fought, somewhat unsuccessfully, for another ordinance aimed at improving the affordable housing options.
Currently, the Board of Adjustment will allow “accessory dwelling units” (ADU), a fancy legal term for “granny units,” only when they will not be used as a rental and will not negatively impact neighbors. Those who do seek the board’s approval must deed restrict their property ensuring the extra unit will never be a money-making endeavor. The goal there was to create options for homeowners who might want to move in an aging parent, while avoiding commercializing any single-family neighborhoods.
The idea to ease up those restrictions was first birthed in the City Council Housing Committee in October 2015, which directed city staff to host public meetings to get input from residents on the idea. The results were not surprising.
Those against ADUs cited the negative impact on parking and traffic, as well as the additional pressure on city infrastructure like sewer and water. They worry that it will sink property values and spur shoddily constructed units. They also cited the over abundance of ADUs currently for rent in the city, which code compliance already has trouble enforcing.
Those in favor of the idea liked that ADU “slow down gentrification” by keeping neighborhoods more affordable. They also liked it as an option for seniors on fixed incomes to make additional revenue.
What an ADU ordinance would include still needs to be hashed out, beginning today at the zoning ordinance committee.
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