Stealth Dorm Update

In February, 2014, Austin City Council adopted an occupancy ordinance that limits the number of unrelated individuals in duplexes and homes to four, down from six. The ordinance is limited to two years. As a part of the occupancy ordinance, the Austin Planning Commission was asked to study and make recommendations on code enforcement and violations.

At its February 15, 2015 meeting, the planning commission unanimously adopted recommendations on the occupancy limit ordinance to be sent to the new city council. The recommendations include:

1) newly permitted buildings with designs typical of over occupancy must agree to an inspection after one year (the inspection will ensure that buildings are in compliance with the occupancy limit ordinance);

2) grandfathered structures with repeat violations of the Property Maintenance Code will lose the status that allows them to house six unrelated individuals;

3) Code Compliance investigate housing for over occupancy if there are violations of the Property Maintenance Code;

4) Code Compliance establish a system of escalating fines for repeat offenders, and coordinate communication between departments in order to track violations;

5) City Council institute civil proceedings for code violations, rather than resolve violation complaints through criminal proceedings;

6) City Council extend the occupancy limit boundaries to neighborhoods outside the McMansion Ordinance boundaries (properties from Research Blvd to William Cannon Drive and from Loop 360 to Ed Bluestein Blvd).

In an effort to stop the misuses of single-family zoned property, the Planning Commission recommends creating a new zoning category called “multifamily lite” to encompass duplexes, fourplexes, and sixplexes.

The commission also recommends that council review the effectiveness of the ordinance and consider expanding it beyond the two-year limit. The new council has had one briefing on stealth dorms. They will discuss the issue in more detail in the newly formed special council committees.

–Mary Sanger

Hancock Neighborhood Association