State News

Mar 21, 2014 3:32 PM

Austin Combatting 'Stealth Dorms'

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Updated occupancy restrictions for parts of Austin mean just four unrelated adults will be allowed to live in new single-family residences or duplexes instead of the current six occupant limit in a dispute over how many people can call a place home.

The Austin City Council on Thursday approved the two-year plan amid concerns about so-called "stealth dorms" in the city that's home to the University of Texas.

Homes built in the future can have only four unrelated adults as residents, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The cap, which takes effect in 10 days, means existing homes that house up to six unrelated people can continue to do so, as long as the owners do not build large additions.

Councilman Bill Spelman voted against the measure, saying the change would apply to a too-large swath of Austin instead of the few neighborhoods that have a glut of dorm-style homes. Some residents have complained about an overflow of residents, traffic and trash.

"If this (cap) had been restricted to neighborhoods where stealth dorms are likely to be built in the future, I could live with it," Spelman said. "But we would be extending it throughout the vast majority of the central part of the city, and I think it's overly broad."

Opponents of the change have said Austin is growing and residents need affordable housing options with possible multiple roommates.

Council member Chris Riley voted for the cap, but raised concerns about options for new residents.

"We still need to figure out ways to have new housing types available to meet diverse and growing demands in the central city. . That problem is going to require a lot more hard work on the part of many different people," Riley said.

The new cap will apply to about 15 ZIP codes. The four-person restrictions will apply only for two years, when the city should be done rewriting land use and development rules.

"I think this will be virtually impossible to enforce," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Thursday. But for the next two years, "we'll give it a spin and see how it works."

City code enforcement officers cannot enter a home to count tenants or beds without a resident's or owner's permission.

___

Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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