AUSTIN, Texas – A team of planning commissioners are hoping to provide more housing options in Austin’s most popular neighborhoods.

  • Proposal to decrease house size in new construcion 
  • Goal is to provide affordable housing options for families
  • Maximum size would be tied to the lot size

Austin's housing market is strong, despite a disproportionate number of homes within a few miles of downtown facing the wrecking ball. However, Austin Planning Commissioner Conor Kenny is concerned about the homes’ replacements.

"The homes that are demolished and replaced with another one single-family home are on average two-and-a-half times bigger than the homes they demolished," said Kenny.

Along with two other planning commissioners, Kenny wants to incentivize more duplexes and what is known as missing middle housing. Their proposal includes reducing the size of homes developers are allowed to build; unless they promise to add room for additional families.

"Instead of a $1 million home, maybe they are still $600,000 houses--yeah, which is still crazy expensive--but they are affordable to a lot more people," said Kenny.

The Home Builders Association supports the concept to some degree.

"Anything that we can do as a city to make that happen is a positive. We would have preferred to see an incentive as opposed to a rollback or more restrictions," said David Glenn with the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin.

The maximum size of the home would be tied to the lot size and reduced from 40 percent to 30 percent. David Glenn said the size reduction would make it hard to build a four-bedroom house on a standard Austin lot.

"I think an 1,800 square foot home doesn't necessarily accommodate a larger family. I think the city should be encouraging all types of housing," said Glenn. ​

City leaders tried to limit large homes at least 10 years ago through the McMansion ordinance. Kenny said his proposal tweaks the parts of the ordinance that he believes falls flat.

"It was a decent idea, but what we have seen in the data is that it didn't do what it is supposed to do, which is to really reign in McMansions," said Kenny.

Instead of creating bigger versions of Austin's older homes, the commissioners hope there will be more affordable options for Austinites.