Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Council Member Paige Ellis Leads Effort on Missing Middle Housing

Austin City Council this week will consider launching a process to streamline the approval process of "missing middle" housing geared toward moderate-income families and individuals at risk of being priced out of the local housing market. The effort is being led by District 8 Council Member Paige Ellis, who believes the city must act to increase housing options and address affordability pressures. Ellis' resolution, to be considered at Council's Dec. 1 meeting, aims to right-size the level of site plan review required for more compact and affordable housing options, including triplex, fourplex, and 5-16 unit missing middle developments.   
"Addressing the city's housing crisis begins by looking within to remove barriers and build efficiency," said Ellis. "Streamlining the review process for these smaller residential developments promises to shorten the amount of time and cost it will take to get these desperately needed affordable housing options on the market without changing zoning." 
Missing middle housing is defined as compact residential developments of 3-16 homes. Under current code, these developments are subject to the complex, expensive, and time-consuming site plan process required of large, multi-family, and commercial projects. The resolution calls for developing a “Site Plan Lite” for residential developments of five to 16 units. Residential projects of three to four units would be reviewed in the manner currently used for single-family homes and duplexes. 
“Increasing the diversity of housing choices available in our neighborhoods is essential to making Austin more affordable and equitable,” said Nora Linares-Moeller, Executive Director of HousingWorks. “Making it easier to build more small multi-unit housing, just like the fourplexes and small apartment buildings that have existed for generations in our cherished historic neighborhoods, is a great step forward. HousingWorks applauds Council Member Ellis and the resolution's cosponsors for their leadership on this issue." 
Council Member Ellis thanks her colleagues Council Members Natasha Harper-Madison, José “Chito” Vela, and Leslie Pool, and Mayor Steve Adler for cosponsoring this resolution that will support affordable and diverse housing options and moves the city closer to its housing goals adopted in the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint. 
“Our city’s outdated rules add costs to homebuilding that get passed on to future buyers and renters,” said District 1 Council Member Harper-Madison. “By cutting the red tape and streamlining our processes to allow smaller, more affordable units like fourplexes and townhomes, we can unlock more housing opportunities for working Austinites and create a more walkable, transit-friendly compact and connected city for both existing and new residents.” 
“As Austin’s affordability crisis deepens, we need to allow people to build smaller, more affordable homes. Simplifying the permitting process also helps affordability,” said District 4 Council Member Vela. “I appreciate CM Ellis’s leadership on this issue. Missing middle housing is only one facet of the transformative housing changes we need in Austin, but it is an important step.” 
“Easing the burden on this type of home is something I’ve been focused on for a good while, and I share Council Member Ellis’ desire to find specific remedies to accommodate more missing middle housing,” said District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool. “As we continue to recover from several challenging years, we are in a good position to focus on these types of reforms and make progress with widespread community support.” 

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